Francois Ozon is amongst the most celebrated of French directors and he is on form with Jeune et Jolie. The film, set over four seasons, depicts Isobelle (Marine Vatch ), a 17 year old who loses her virgintiy in the summer on holiday, becomes a prostitute in autumn, is revealed as such in winter, and in spring there is a dramatic reconciliation which I won’t spoil.
The actress Marine Vacht playing Isobelle is beautiful with her pouting lips and figure, but at 23 seems inexperienced. In some actresses, like Jennifer Lawrence, you can see the talent right away but I cannot put her in that category. She does not explain the plot weakness of the film, namely, why a middle class shy adolescent should decide to become a prostitute. Although Ozon claims the film to be original, it bears a clear resemblance to Secret Studies, in which a student in financial difficulties resorts to prostitution. Indeed, one scene – when she is not paid in full by a punter – is almost a direct replica.
The family setting is well done, in particular the relationship between Isobelle and her kid brother. The opening shot is Victor viewing her sunbathing via binoculars and there is the element of the voyeur as the brother experiences the first rites of sexual awareness. The mother is highly disapproving and shell-shocked by the revelation, but her second husband is more tolerant. The best scene comes at the end with a cameo performance from Charlotte Rampling.
The film is daring and provocative. There are scenes of explicit sex and of Isabelle masturbating, which the more prurient Brit would classify as porn. It’s a film that features sex, but with a powerful story line and emotional engagements which is well acted. It’s strange that Blue is the Warmest Colour had achieved such notoriety for the lesbian coupling, when so many French films contain scenes equally explicit.