First love is an intoxicating experience, but with it can come excruciating awkwardness, unrequited emotions, and confusing issues of identity. In her trademark playful style, Quebec cartoonist and animator Diane Obomsawin, a.k.a. Obom, adapts her latest graphic novel for the screen, using endearing anthropomorphic figures to tell poignant real-life stories of love.
Charlotte, Mathilde, Marie, and Diane reveal the nitty-gritty about their first loves, sharing funny and intimate tales of one-sided infatuation, mutual attraction, erotic moments, and fumbling attempts at sexual expression. For them, sexual awakening comes hand-in-hand with discovering their desire for other women—and a joyful new self-awareness.
Obom’s visually whimsical stories deftly weave together these youthful memories, resulting in a powerful and tender work with universal appeal. Evoking all the raw intensity and heart-pounding excitement of falling in love for the very first time, this uplifting film will resonate with lovers everywhere.
Quebec painter, illustrator, cartoonist and filmmaker Diane Obomsawin—a.k.a. Obom—recently brought her latest comic book to the screen. In the NFB’s studios, the panels of I Like Girls, published in 2014 by Éditions L’oie de Cravan, have been transformed into a delightful animated short film about first love between women. With finesse and humility, Obomsawin has crafted a universal story that is at once comical, sensual, poetic, feminist and enlightening.
What changes when adapting a comic book to film?
Pretty much everything. The sets, the shape of the characters, you name it. The film is really different from the comic book; it’s a completely different universe. In one respect, an animated film loses something in the “horizontal” or linear dimension because, unlike a comic book, there’s no time to really tell or develop the stories. If I had adapted all of the stories from my comic book, the film would have been at least two hours long. But on the other hand, the film is more “vertical.” The soundtrack and sound effects, the colours and sets all add depth to the stories. In the end, I think the film gains much more than it loses; it may even be more evocative than the comic book.
What technique did you use for the film?
Rotoscoping. I wanted to create a sensual movie, so we filmed two dancers in the NFB studios and I drew on the filmed images. I Like Girls is not a psychological film. The decision to work with dancers instead of actresses became clear when my producer, Marc Bertrand, asked me about the psychology of the characters. It occurred to me that I never “do” psychology; it just doesn’t interest me. So instead we turned to dancers, who are very comfortable with their bodies, to achieve a more physical or embodied result rather than a psychological one.
In this respect, a lot of work in the film was done on the characters’ bodies and how they move…
I initially wanted my film to be sexy. People often think that women aren’t intimate, which is not true. I wanted the audience to see their complicity and pleasure in making love and in their loving embraces and gestures. But my drawing style is very simple; my pencil stroke only captures what’s essential, which is not sexy on screen at all. So I mixed my naive drawings with more realistic ones that I had traced on paintings or photographs of naked women’s bodies. And it worked! For the characters’ way of walking, I practised in the country and found a way of jogging that’s amusing on screen. But the most important thing was the girls’ bodies together—their caresses and hands. I was very happy with how it turned out.
Were there any specific challenges in transposing the nudity in the comic book to the screen?
There was one shot in a love scene that just didn’t work. The mattress was too soft and the result looked awkward after rotoscoping. In the end, I took it out and replaced it with two grasshoppers making love on a twig at night in front of a lit window. Sometimes challenges can lead to ideas that are even more beautiful and evocative.
The title of the film and French version of the comic book refers to the famous song by Jacques Dutronc. Why that particular song?
The idea of women being able to appropriate typically male cultural references really appeals to me. Like sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll…. and girls! I thought it would be fun to make a nod to one of pop culture’s most iconic heartthrobs.
How did you choose the four stories that ended up in the film?
Instinctively. I included my own story because I wanted to be in the film with my friends. I also used Charlotte’s story because it was the most romantic, and Mathilde’s because it was the most “out there.” Marie’s, because it was the saddest. I used extremes to get a pretty wide spectrum, although I do have some minor regrets. I think the film needed one or two more stories—the eight minutes seem to go by too quickly! But like I said, it’s only a minor regret. I think it’s normal after finishing a film to second-guess yourself and think about everything you’d change if you had to do it all over again.
Why did you give the characters animal features?
My drawing style isn’t realistic. I decided to use animal features to differentiate the characters, such as long ears or a snout. I think it adds an endearing and playful touch, a little something special. And funnily enough, the girls who shared their stories loved being depicted as a cat or dog. Plus it created a certain detachment. They were able to recognize their stories without recognizing themselves.
Who is the film ultimately for?
It’s not really something I thought about during the creative process. It was only after the film was finished that I realized it was especially for young people struggling with their sexual orientation. But from a broader perspective, I think the film is also for lovers everywhere.
Script, Animation, Direction
Holly Gauthier Frankel
Sound Design and Original Music
Compositing and Animation
William J. Gossage
Pierre Yves Drapeau
Catherine Van Der Donckt
Jean Paul Vialard
“Le temps de l’amour”
Composed by Jacques Dutronc, Lucien Jean Morisse, André Michel Charles Salvet
Éditions musicales Alpha and Les éditions Ad Litteram Inc.
Performed by Françoise Hardy
By arrangement with Sony Music Entertainment Canada Inc.
Lucie Bourgouin for Permission Inc.
Live-Action Shoots and Rotoscoping
Director of Photography
Lili Rose Babin
Animation Studio / French Program