Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Young and Beautiful
Written and directed by Francois Ozon, Jeune & Jolie (Young and Beautiful) is the story of a young woman who becomes a teenage prostitute following the loss of virginity during a summer vacation in Germany. The film is an exploration of a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality while keeping her new profession secret from her mother. Starring Marine Vacth, Geraldine Pailhas, Frederic Pierrot, and Charlotte Rampling. Jeune & Jolie is a ravishing yet haunting film from Francois Ozon.
The film is about a young woman exploring her sexuality as she had just turned 17 where she secretly becomes a prostitute. After some trouble and the eventual discovery by her mother, Isabelle (Marine Vacth) copes with her encounters as she becomes confused about the role she took and her own beauty. It’s a film that is about this young woman who loses her virginity to a German boy during a summer vacation in the country as the film is told through four seasons in the life of this young woman. The script has a very unique yet odd narrative structure where much of the first half is very straightforward from Isabelle’s time in the summer to becoming a prostitute to men who are older than her in various places in Paris during after school hours.
The film’s second half not only has her reveal, through flashbacks, into what drove into prostitution and why she didn’t stop immediately as it causes tension between herself and her mother Sylvie (Geraldine Pailhas). Especially as Isabelle accuses Sylvie of straying from her marriage to Isabelle’s stepfather Patrick (Frederic Pierrot). Isabelle’s confusion and her unwillingness to open up to her family and her friends adds to her melancholic state as she would later talk to a psychiatrist about her work and the moment that forced to quit for good. All of which would lead to a third act where Isabelle not only confronts her actions but also deal with the incident that drove her to stop becoming a prostitute.
Francois Ozon’s direction is very mesmerizing for the way he explores a young woman coming of age as she discovers her sexuality as much of the film is set in France while the first scenes in the summer are shot in Germany where Isabelle would lose her virginity. Ozon’s compositions in some of the wide and medium shots in Germany have a sense of beauty as it would shift once the film moves to France where it’s not as colorful as it would play to the melancholia of Isabelle as she lives this double-life as a 17-year old girl going to school and hang out with friends while she would have this other life sleeping with men who are older than her as she claims to be 20 year old.
Ozon’s use of close-ups on Isabelle are entrancing not just for her beauty but in how men are willing to fall for her as Ozon’s presentation of the sex is very seductive and not graphic. Even as some of it plays for laughs as it relates to Isabelle’s younger brother Victor (Fantin Ravat) and their stepfather as the latter is baffled by his stepchildren’s fascination with sex. Yet, Ozon keeps it simple and restrained in his approach to humor and drama where it would lead to a climax where Isabelle confronts her fears. Overall, Ozon crafts a very evocative and chilling film about a young woman coming to her terms with her sexuality.
Cinematographer Pascal Marti does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful and lush cinematography for the German beach scenes to the low-key lighting and mood for the hotel interior scenes in Paris. Editor Laure Gardette does wonderful work with the editing with its stylish cuts that includes a montage of Isabelle and her classmates talking about a poem by Arthur Rimbaud as well as some straightforward cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Katia Wyszkop does brilliant work with the apartment that Isabelle and her family lives to the look of the hotel rooms and hallways that she goes to as a prostitute.
Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does terrific work with the clothes from the casual look that Isabelle wears at home and around her friends to the more adult-like clothing she wears as a prostitute. Sound editor Benoit Gargonne does nice work with the sound from the quiet atmosphere of the hotels to the array of sounds of a party that Isabelle attends with her friends. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is superb for its somber and melancholic score that plays into moods that Isabelle goes through while its film soundtrack includes some electronic pieces by M83 and Crystal Castles at a party scene plus songs by Francoise Hardy that plays to Isabelle’s evolution as a person.
The casting by Sarah Teper is amazing for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Djedje Apali and Nathalie Richard as friends of Sylvie and Patrick, Laurent Delbecque as a classmate of Isabelle, Jeanne Ruff as Isabelle’s best friend Claire, Serge Hefez as Isabelle’s psychiatrist in the film’s second half, Akela Sari as the family maid Mouna, and Lucas Prisor as the German boy that Isabelle loses her virginity to. Johan Leysen is terrific as one of Isabelle’s aging clients as a man who treats her very well while Fantin Ravat is wonderful as Isabelle’s younger brother Victor who is intrigued by the world of sex as he is also coming of age.
Frederic Pierrot is excellent as Isabelle’s stepfather Patrick who brings some humor to the film as he tries to deal with the boundaries while being baffled by his stepchildren’s discovery of sex as he also tries to help out Sylvie with her problems. Geraldine Pailhas is fantastic as Isabelle’s mother Sylvie as a woman who eventually learns what her daughter does as she tries to cope with the news and her own failings as a mother. In a cameo performance of sorts, Charlotte Rampling is remarkable in small yet radiant performance as a woman Isabelle meets late in the film as it’s one that is really unforgettable. Finally, there’s Marine Vacth in a brilliant performance as Isabelle as this young woman who becomes fascinated by sex as she becomes a prostitute where she deals with her beauty and sensuality as well as coming to terms with her identity as it’s a real breakthrough for the young actress.
Jeune & Jolie is a sensational film from Francois Ozon that features a dazzling performance from newcomer Marine Vacth. It’s a film that is told with such sensitivity and curiosity in the way a young woman explores her sexuality and the power of sex while dealing with the consequences of her actions which would later lead to her becoming a woman. In the end, Jeune & Jolie is a marvelous film from Francois Ozon.
Francois Ozon Films: Sea the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - Le Refuge - Potiche - In the House - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon
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