11/10/2013

LFF: Jeune et Jolie (Young & Beautiful)

The great Francois Ozon returns to The London Film Festival with his take on teenage rebellion and sexual experimentation. Isabelle (Marine Vacth) is the young and beautiful creature of the title who realistically loses her virginity (i.e. awkward and disappointing) to a blonde German she has no interest in and returns home after a summer break with her family. The event triggers her sexual awakening but instead of getting fingered in a park like other teenage girls she embarks on a double life as a prostitute. It's unclear why she opts to put herself in danger like that and apart from being short-changed by an aggressive customer, most of her encounters are rather tame compared to what I assume real prostitutes encounter.

Ozon uses repetitive shots and near-silent scenes to his advantage and it all looks as attractive as its lead actress, but just as you start to tire of it her favourite client dies in the act and her secret life is revealed to her devastated mother. Isabelle is weirdly cold and distant but nevertheless intriguing and when a grin of satisfaction flashes up on her face upon seeing the flurry of texts from potential customers, it reveals more about her than the preceding hour. While I don't think it's up there with Ozon's best work, as usual he weaves moments of humour into the film even if the story of female sexual expression is clearly from a male viewpoint.