Director: Francois Ozon
Duration: 95 minutes (France)
Acclaimed French director Francois Ozon dips into the morally iniquitous world of prostitution. It’s a novel four season/four song piece, where promise doesn’t quite reconcile with success.
This a story about the ‘young and beautiful’ Isabelle.
She is 17 and on the perimeter of young adulthood. After a cherry popping summer holiday fling with a young German boy, a blazing ignition is lit for an autumn that will find her adopting her grandmother’s moniker, ‘Lea’, and selling her body for money.
She is no street hooker though. ‘Lea’ instantly floats amongst the higher class. With appointments in posh hotels rooms, she engages in liaisons with clientele of a wealthy nature. Due to the money involved, more often than not the gulf between the age of customer and her very self is an extreme chasm bordering on the grotesque; it makes her lie to classmates about dating a 32 year old seem faintly ridiculous. If only they knew.
Sadly for Isabelle, the spell of prostitution is broken after an unfortunate episode opens the door of double life discovery by her unsuspecting family.
Looking at the initial premise – the sexual awakening of a 17 year old girl – it could easily send tremors of comparison with the other big foreign language release this month, Blue Is The Warmest Colour. However, apart from a first glance reflection, the latter stands apart from this particular outing, in both the success of its execution and its narrative trajectory.
You see, despite having an assured directorial hand, Ozon’s Jeune & Jolie (‘Young & Beautiful’) throws up a great deal more questions than it answers. This would be fine if the questions were of a moral nature, but when it is one of motive it is far more troubling.
Despite being shot in a manner that is thankfully devoid of grimy sepia-tinged cliché for this content (its style and framing shares more in common with colour-period fellow Frenchman Eric Rohmer) it is effective as a projection of a trade lacking glamour.
The portrayal of ritual rendezvous and formality is a sobering pill to the racy nature of the encounters. Bizarrely, the ultimate effect is not too different from Grant Gee’s mildly depressing 1998 Radiohead documentary, Meeting People Is Easy.
Jeune & Jolie is reasonably engaging and passes without dragging its (stiletto) heels too laboriously. Yet it doesn’t promise to linger too long in the memory.
It is a shallow look at a hefty subject. We never gain an understanding of why Isabelle finds prostitution seductive.
A minor entry into the world cinema canon. However, it should be noted that the lead performance by Marine Vacth is both effective and brave.
‘Jeune & Jolie’ is available on DVD and Blu Ray now. It can be purchased here.
In the meantime, here is the trailer: