Yong & Beautiful/Jeune et jolie


Pros: cast, look, sound

Cons: opacity of motivation

François Ozon has made some movies I like (8 Women, Time to Leave, Potiche, the 2012 “In the House”) and some I loathe (Criminal Lovers, Water Drops on Burning Rocks). I sort of liked “Jeune & jolie” (Young & Beautiful), structured with a song for each of the episodes set in consecutive seasons and the coming of sybilline (that is, enigmatic) age of Isabelle (Marine Vacth), who is 16 years old and a virgin being spied on as she sunbathes topless by her younger brother Victor (Fantin Ravat, the voyeuristic incarnation of the film-maker, I think), in the first scene. Before the family vacation is over, she has disencumbered herself of her virginity to a German boy named Felix (Lucas Prisor) she judges too stupid to be introduced to her parents. What’s love got to do with it? Not a thing!

With an alternative cellphone chip she undertakes casual prostitution, making substantial sums mostly from jones (jeans?) who don’t make heavy demands on her. When an old man ((Johan Leysen) has a fatal heart attack (Nelson Rockefeller style) while insider her, she panics and flees, and security cameras enable the police to find her, and they inform her mother, Sylvie (a very sympathetically frustrated ), who forces her to undertake seeing a therapist. (Her stepfather, played by a wry Frédéric Pierrot, leaves childrearing to Sylvie.

What she feels remains opaque to the viewer and to the other characters, and I think to Isabelle herself. The usual French aversion to providing motivation as well as Anglo discomfort about whether young people can consent to sex with old ones, for money or otherwise make it uncomfortable viewing for me. (Knowing that the actress was 22 rather than 16-17 lessens if not removing some of the discomfort.) Pascal Marti’s cinematography is quite pretty, however, and I like the songs (delivered by Françoise Hardy). And I like the opaque final encounter, too.

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