The latest offering from François Ozon, Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful) which premiered at Cannes earlier this year is the tale of 17-year old Isabelle, (Marine Vacth) a breathtakingly beautiful young woman on the verge of adulthood who explores her sexuality by becoming a prostitute. In a modern day take on Bunel’s Belle du jour, we follow Isabelle through the four seasons starting with the family summer vacation (here an echo of Eric Rohmer’s Pauline à la plage) and ending with spring -the season of renewal.
Jeune et Jolie is a surprisingly charming film given it’s subject matter largely due to the central performance by Vacht (who bears no slight resemblance to a young Julia Roberts) who evokes the viewers sympathy while remaining detached from the course of events she sets in motion. A scene where a group of high-students recite Rimbaud’s poem No One’s Serious at Seventeen lends some explanation as to why Isabelle decides to have paid sex with strangers in but Ozon admits the character is not easy to understand.
“This young woman is a mystery to me, too. I’m not ahead of her, I’m simply following her, like an entomologist gradually falling in love with the creature he’s studying. She says very little….The idea is to accompany her, identify with her,” he says. Isabelle’s voyage of self discovery ends in the real discovery of her double life and the effect it has on her family. An excellent supporting cast including Géraldine Pailhas as the mother and Frédéric Pierrot as the step-father make this one of the most intriguing and enjoyable of Ozon’s films. In cinemas in France: 21/08/2013
DVD subtitled in English