“You’re not really serious when you’re seventeen.”
In the second entry in the Cannes Competition, François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) delivers a subtle, non-judgmental exploration of sex work and female sexuality.
Instead of using Jeune et Jolie as a vehicle for his liberal take on sex, he remains focused on his characters, namely the often unreadable face of Marine Vacth, a talented newcomer. It may take you until her one-on-one with Charlotte Rampling (this is her fifth Ozon appearance) to realize her talent. We can expect her in more Ozon, and, considering the French auteur makes about a movie a year, we can expect it soon.
Jeune et Jolie is a very strong showing from France, and shows that Ozon still has that bête noire appeal.
After losing her virginity to a handsome but bland German, 17-year old Isabelle (Vacth) begins sex work for older, moneyed clients. Puzzling out her motivations is part of the hook that keeps you watching. She’s upper class Parisian with a loving mother (Géraldine Pailhas), step-father, and idolizing younger brother. Yet she remains inscrutable. She remains, in other words, a teenager, and Ozon is wise not to scramble together an answer for unanswerable behavior. And Vacth can play inscrutable well: like Wesley Morris said of Rooney Mara, she doesn’t hold a close-up but complicates it.
Even in Swimming Pool, Ozon’s French Reviera mystery, sex was not this nebulous. He seduces and repels us with Isabelle’s transient encounters and the oddly tender relationship she forms with one client – tender precisely because Ozon does not drift into Pretty Woman territory, or veer the other way into a shop of abused hooker horrors.
Certainly for some critics the relentless focus on the sealed-off Isabelle proved monotonous, and if early rumours are true, half the French press considered parts of her story dull. It’s hard not to feel that the camera sometimes perches on the shoulders of male voyeurs, whether it’s her younger brother or step-father. Come to think about it, the four-season structure is a little arbitrary, though any excuse to play a relevant Françoise Hardy song is usually a good excuse.
Ozon likes to lace his darkness with light, so it is no surprise that he sprinkles the emotionally confusing sex scenes with prostitution puns and a funny comparison on hourly rates between Isabelle and her shrink. Jeune et Jolie is a very strong showing from France, and shows that Ozon still has that bête noire appeal.
[notification type="star"]80/100 ~ GREAT. In the second entry in the Cannes Competition, François Ozon delivers a subtle, non-judgmental exploration of sex work and female sexuality.[/notification]