After his success with Dans la Maison last year, Ozon’s most recent film is much more understated and quieter. Rather than tackling the realms of voyeurism and metafiction Ozon’s Jeune et Jolie focuses on a much smaller story, almost a character portrait.
French model-turned-actress Marine Vacth plays Isabelle, a 17 year old girl who, after an unsatisfying sexual awakening, turns to prostitution. Her performance is subtle and often nearly silent, but is nevertheless totally engaging. The camera blatantly loves her face and Ozon makes full use of this is by employing as many close-ups as is reasonable. There is a slight blankness in her performance which suits the mystery and confusion that surrounds Isabelle’s actions.
Lamentably, apart from the comic interludes with her younger brother (Fantin Ravat), the characters that surround Isabelle all seem terribly generic. The overly-concerned mother, the disinterested step-father and the sweet-but-unexciting boyfriend. It would be so much more interesting to watch the schism between sex and love develop in Isabelle’s head if she had someone to bounce off. The film attempts to provide this in the form of a cameo by Charlotte Rampling who also divides sex and love, but for very different reasons. Yet by the time you have arrived at the end of the film, through dull characters and a completely superfluous structure involving seasons, it’s not enough and Rampling’s sudden appearance just seems bizarre.
You come to expect some kind of meaning or payoff in Ozon’s work but Jeune et Jolie doesn’t have this. It seems to hold to an idea of the innate mystery of female promiscuity rather than deconstructing its protagonist like Dans la Maison or Le temps qui reste. While Vacth’s performance is good, it is Ozon’s treatment of the material that makes the film so beautiful to watch. Ozon avoids romanticising her prostitution or allowing the film to become distasteful. His style even reserves all judgement and leaves that to the viewer. Directorially Isabelle is neither condoned nor condemned, and Ozon offers the grey area of consent and vulnerability up for discussion.
- Entertainment: 2/5
- Artistic: 4/5
- Intellectual: 2/5