Jeune et Jolie, Young and Beautiful is a sensitive and realistic treatment of love and sexuality seen through six characters, the main one being a 17 year-old girl, Isabelle, played convincingly by Marine Vacth.
After her first sexual experience on the beach during a summer romance, she falls into prostitution. Is it about sex, is it about love, is it about the dangers of internet and mobile phones, is it about age-gaps or, on the contrary, age-bonds?
Director Francois Ozon explains that it could be all of those things.
“In general, when we talk about prostitution it’s about the financial side of it. For me it was clear that I had to evacuate that to find something deeper, more mysterious. It was important to show several possibilities, but not to have a pre-conceived idea.
It was to follow this character through the four seasons, show the facts, and then it’s up to everyone to interpret it how they want, to understand what they want.
Not to judge her, but to accompany her.”
In his previous film, Dans la Maison, Ozon looked at a relationship between a teenage boy and a housewife.
The film is divided into four seasons, starting in summer and ending in Spring. It was mainly about teenage issues, but that wasn'tthe only issue. The brother is on the threshold of adolescence, the mother and step father reaching middle-age.
Isabelle is young and pretty. Her family is financially comfortable, she goes to a good school, and has a cool relationship with her younger brother at the threshold of adolescence. She seems to know what she wants.
Isabelle falls for one her clients, but not in a typical way. He’s old enough to be her grandfather.
That relationship provides the twist.
Charlotte Rampling, a British actress established in France, plays the man’s wife. The meeting with the well-groomed and elderly lady (of Ozon’s Sous le Sable) shakes her.
In Jeune et Jolie, Ozon uses several of Francoise Hardy’s French pop songs from the 1960s. Her hits captured the spirit of freedom of the time, talking about love and relationships. Attitudes in society towards love and sexuality, and teeneagers in all that, may have changed in 50 years, but the leap into adulthood has not.
Another film in competition among the first screeners, Heli, is by Mexican Amat Escalante. The films has critics divided. Some couldn’t stand the level of violence shown by this director who worked with last year’s Festival "badboy/genius” Carlos Reygardas. Escalante fielded questions about the violence by saying that in a film, unlike in a newspaper, you can show how bad things really are, and show it to those who do not know the situation.