At times a rich, intimate observation of emerging sexuality, the movie also maintains a quiet, observational rhythm that peaks around wintertime when things grow dark for the character and then more or less watches her grow up.
The topic of teenage sexuality has always been a fascination of French auteurs and French cinema in general. Exploring the many fascinating avenues of contemporary sexual decision making and the choices of many multi-layered characters within the countless French narratives revolving around adolescents, François Ozon’s latest Young & Beautiful is a mysteriously alluring tale of carnal choices and fateful meetings that shape the life of its protagonist Isabelle (played marvelously by Marine Vatch in a star-making performance) and the people’s lives she touches upon her decision to become a prostitute in modern day Paris, France.
Opening on a family vacation somewhere on the idlyic French coast, we are introduced to Isabelle and her family during one of their annual summer vacations. The family, a well-to do working class unit, enjoy the very simple pleasures of togetherness and vacationing. Isabelle is introduced as a beautiful and presumably innocent young seventeen year-old girl who; enjoys laying on the beach, sharing her adolescent experiences with her curious little brother Victor (Fantin Ravat), and is looking to lose her virginity to a young and handsome German boy named Felix (Lucas Prisor). Coming face-to-face with the ideal of love and fleeting innocence as well as a version of herself she may never again become, the events that unfold during this particular summer vacation are the events that shape Isabelle and her tenacious, yet completely aloof understanding of love, sex, passion and pleasure, forever.
While the film premiered at last years Cannes International Film Festival, Young & Beautiful was unable to win the illustrious Palme D’Or, instead holding on to its ‘in competition’ nomination and watching its French relative, the instant cult classic Blue Is The Warmest Color take away the prize instead. While both films are from France and equally deal with young women’s integration into a world of sexuality and the deep complexities of love, each film comments differently on the expectations of relationships and the harsh realties between the difference of love and lust. The irony of the two films lies in the exposure and expectations each film connotes. Blue, one of the most pronounced love stories of the last decade, gained its stark reputation thanks to the graphic lesbian sex scenes between its two stars and their prosthetic genitals. While Young & Beautiful is a film that follows the actions of an underage prostitute and her inability to accept love or the deep notions of human interactions with or without intercourse, Blue was the one that gained all the controversy. Young & Beautiful‘s protagonist Isabelle experiences a plethora of sexual preferences, from animalistic suedo-machoism, to gentle moments of tender affection, Isabelle’s sexual memoir is highly dependent on her disconnection with herself and her misunderstood sexuality. Amidst sessions **** and boyfriends, Isabelle is less concerned than her search of the orgasm, and more preoccupied with the sexual experiences and the longing to be touched.
Youth is the topic under extreme scrutiny in François Ozon’s latest sexual marvel of a film. Although many may see the film as a rendezvous towards exploring the psyche behind Isabelle’s choice to being a prostitute, Ozon is interested much more on the idea of normal people enacting their suppressed desires to leading lives as outcasts, vagabonds and social rejects, for no good reason at all. Young & Beautiful is a brutal film starved of reasoning and logic and saturated with fundamental desires of action, spontaneity and the idea of ‘want’.
Young & Beautiful radiants in its script. Elegantly written, Isabelle is at the centre of many of the revelations revealed in the film and the ways in which the characters progress. Her relationship between her brother is one that draws direct comparisons to a younger version of Brendan (Michael Fassbender) and Sissy (Carey Mulligan) in Shame, in the ways they share their sexual experiences and how they interact and have an unconditional love for one another, despite their ability to directly hurt each other. Scenes involving Isabelle and her mother Sylvie (Geraldine Palihas) are some in the best of the film, and how two women’s lives of deceit and manipulation can differ so much. Isabelle interacts mostly with men, with the exception of her mother. Her relationship between her most beloved client Georges (Johan Leysen), an elderly business man who spends more time acknowledging the immense youthful beauty consuming Isabelle, provides the film with the closest thing we have to a love story. Additional scenes of Isabelle with her stepfather Patrick (Federic Pierrot), a therapist (Serge Hefez), and an unexpected client near the end of the film delivers poignant insight on the director’s expectation of the imagination and impacts they have on reality.
Toughtful, provoking and artistic. Much superior to another french movie with young girls and sex released this year (Blue is the warmest color). Francois Ozon is one of the most interesting film makers out there. Writting and directing is genius, does not give much away, but give us characters shockingly realistic. I'm not french, and there's such different cultural point of view towards sex, this may affect you different ways.. Heck, if you don't care about all this, watch it just for Fantin Ravat - gorgeous.
Young & Beautiful, with its barrage of fairly graphic sex scenes, is a throwback to the erotically charged, envelope-pushing Euro art-house films of the '60s and '70s such as Blow-Up and Last Tango in Paris.
Ozon wants to have it both ways with Young & Beautiful, using a young woman's risk-filled sexual awakening as an illustration of coming-of-age, while also demanding a realism from a situation that he keeps far from being rationalized and justified.
All we’re left with is the sight of older men hiring a gorgeous young woman to take her clothes off and fulfill their desires. If nothing else, Ozon does leave us wondering whether he intended such an uncomfortable parallel between life and art.
Francois Ozon always tackles bold subjects with minimum fuss and a strong narrative drive. Young and Beautiful is no exception in its telling of a young girl's experience as a prostitute.
The film is broken down into the four seasons and is at its best in the second half when the girl's dalliances are discovered by her parents. Up to this point we are just presented with the various sexual interludes with different men, which is really only of minimal interest. Frustratingly we never really comprehend why the girl goes into prostitution in the first place and the ending is left somewhat open.
Lead actress, Marine Vacht, certainly lives up to the title description and the music is also notably complimentary. In fact there really isn't much to dislike as it's all very pretty and watchable, if a tad insubstantial.
After losing her virginity, Isabelle takes up a secret life as a call girl, meeting her clients for hotel-room trysts. Throughout, she remains curiously aloof, showing little interest in the encounters themselves or the money she makes. (6)
France 2 Cinéma,
La Banque Postale Image 6,
Sofica Manon 3,
Palatine Étoile 10,
La Région Île-de-France