Jeune & Jolie (Young and Pretty)

Directed by Francois Ozon
Starring Marine Vacth, Fantin Ravat, Charlotte Rampling
Showing at FACT till 5th December 2013

Reviewed by Darren Guy

“Her face offered itself as a blank screen upon which I was going to project a lot of fantasies'. Ozon

Directed by Francois Ozon, Jeune et Jolie (Young and Pretty) is another coming of age film set during the four seasons of the year accompanied by four songs. It stars former French model Marine Vacth as Isabelle. Isabelle is a 'beautiful' 17-year-old girl, spending a summer holiday with her family in the south of France, enjoying sunny days, sandy beaches, clear blue seas, siestas, and long lunches. Hovering around her is her 'saucy eyed' younger brother Victor (Fantin Ravat), and loitering on the edges is an older German boy (Lucas Prisor) looking at getting his way with Isabelle. She loses her virginity to Lucas and then loses interest in him. Then it's autumn, she is back in Paris and has become a high class prostitute, meeting an array of seedy middle-aged and elderly men in hotels. By spring its all over and she is a woman. The rest of of the film is in there.

Jeune & Jolie has received many positive reviews. Although it did maintain interest throughout I found it unbelievable and pointless. 22 -year- old Vacth does have good screen presence but her role as 17- year- old Isabelle is unconvincing. Vacth herself carries an aura and expression that suggests a life and experience way beyond even her own 22 years. The director's overt attempts at portraying her naivety and innocence did not work.

I had the overall feeling the film was thrown together. Maybe Ozon believed that if he put the likes of Vacth in the film he wouldn’t need to do much else, believing that her 'beauty' would carry it. The narrative was weak, the dialogue was also weak and there was not any character with depth. Maybe it does happen that an innocent, wealthy teenager goes from losing her virginity to turning to prostitution, but in this film it's for no apparent reason. Was she looking for something real in her life? Was she trying to get sexual experience? Was she rebelling against her parents break up? Was she looking for a father figure? Hitting back against her privileged upbringing? Was she trying to prove she could earn her own money? We don't really know. Maybe that was the point of the film. It is what it is! And teenagers are what they are - complicated. But the weakness in the script itself is exemplified in a moment when Isabelle's best friend asks her 'Why are you so sad today?' Isabelle had not only looked sad right throughout but even with her encounters with her friend. Vacth said in an interview I read after seeing the film, "I didn't really try and understand psychologically who she was, And anyway I couldn't because François (Ozon) didn't tell me anything about her psychology.".

The one realistic part of the film is towards the end when Isabelle, marred by her experience as a prostitute, begins to view all men through the same eyes, a potential punter.

I coudn't help feeling that Victor was in fact Ozon in disguise, but unlike Victor, Ozon is using filmmaking as an excuse, for Vacth to get her kit off so he could spy on the former French model and prise out her sexual fantasies. Having said that, I do believe Vacth has the makings of a good actress and we should see more of her in other films in the future.

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