Jeune & Jolie
Troubling examination of female adolescence leaves subject matter inadequately explored
Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour is an obvious reference point in François Ozon’s latest feature about a 17-year-old girl Isabelle (Marine Vacth) who, having lost her virginity on holiday, takes the not-so-very-logical step to become a prostitute. But this is not a satirical take on middle-class repressions, instead it’s a troubling examination of female adolescence.
Isabelle experiences her first sexual encounter as profoundly disembodying; she shuns emotional attachment and seemingly self-medicates with masturbation and pornography. As such, the film plays as a suitably distanced study of the disparity between emotional and physical attachment, intimating that the transition into adulthood and, by extension, a society constructed around various harmful dichotomies and expectations is the true cause for concern.
It is to Ozon’s credit that he does not offer trite explanations for his young protagonist’s destructive behaviour. However, his predilection for painting in broad brushstrokes also means that he runs the risk of leaving this character as a beautiful, feminine mystery. Elsewhere, as in Under the Sand, Ozon has demonstrated that he can produce nuanced studies of female psychology. Ultimately, this film signals towards complexity without probing its subject matter fully.
Limited release from Fri 29 Nov.