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Jeune et Jolie


Stars: Marine Vacth, Geraldine Pailhas, Frederic Pierrot, Fantin Ravat, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Richard, Djedje Apali, Lucas Prisor, Laurent Delbecque, Jeanne Ruff, Serge Hefez

Director: François Ozon

Says Francois Ozon of his fascinating portrait of a 17-year-old French girl, portrayed in a star-making performance in her fourth screen appearance by model/actress Marine Vacth, who becomes a high-class call-girl after losing her virginity on holiday in the South of France: “The film is about what it feels like to be seventeen and experiencing the transformation of one’s body. Adolescence is often idolized in cinema … I didn’t want to depict adolescence as an emotional time but also and above all a hormonal one. Our bodies go through intense psychological changes … so we assault our bodies in order to feel, we test our limits physically. The theme of prostitution provides a way to highlight this...”

Serendipitously writer and director Ozon skilfully demonstrates that what could so easily be mistaken for simple auteur-driven hubris is actually acute psychological observation. Vacth’s progress from schoolgirl to prostitute – while never dissected in pseudo-psychological detail – is both convincing and convincingly portrayed. Sex without pleasure appears to be Vacth’s basic motivation until she is forced to assess her ‘progress’ when one of her elderly clients dies while with her. (In this respect, Charlotte Rampling makes a strong impression as the dead man’s widow who ‘books’ a meeting with Vacth in order to ‘finalise’ the mourning).

Jeune et Jolie was shown at Cannes and at the London Film Festival: in the case of London, for once the film’s inclusion was eminently well deserved. Ozon’s handling – opening with a young boy ogling Vacth on the beach through binoculars – is exemplary and, without pulling any sexual punches, never simply licentious in its depiction.

(And for those seeking a less-than-obvious subtext – Jeune et Jolie is, after all, a subtitled film – perhaps Vacth’s loss of her virginity to a German is a subtle reference to the Nazi Occupation of France during World War 2).

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour by Eclair.
94 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 30 Nov 2013