Young & Beautiful (2013)
Director: François Ozon
Wild Bunch Films
Synopsis: Isabelle, a 17-year old girl, becomes a call girl after losing her virginity.
Overview: For such a cold film, Young and Beautiful is oddly compelling. Its plot, regarding beautiful teenager Isabelle’s unexplained transition into a callous call-girl, within its context, is completely confounding yet altogether believable, begging us to to solve the puzzle within her actions.
It is a coming of age film that defies its genre. The reasoning behind every decision within it is generally unexplained – left to the viewer to decipher. And its story, interlaced with title cards that divulge each season in a year, is given Francoise Hardy pop lyrics to accompany, almost as a prelude to each sequence. It focuses on a sexual awakening, as chaotic and confusing as it should be. And Isabelle, in her navigation of this new stage of her life, appears mature, almost exempt from the true pettiness of youth that plagues her friends.
There are times where suspense can be felt, for, as one person makes clear, prostitution can be a dangerous profession, where there is no way to protect yourself from the seedier patrons. Soon enough however, the film dispels this presumption, focusing not on the dangers of anonymous sex, but rather, the nihilistic and meaningless nature of it. The scenes of love-making are devoid of this emotion ‘love’; it is not erotic, but rather, uncomfortable but simultaneously mentally perplexing. That is until Isabelle meets Georges, an older man, and a tenderness reveals itself that brings value to her trysts.
Marine Vacth gives it her all as Isabelle, subtly granting us inklings of the thoughts within her mind. With a stoic temperament, she exudes restraint in her performance, going through the degrading motions, yet capturing an odd and paradoxical sense of empowerment from it all. She is nonchalant in her practice, creating a sense of significance in all of the random hook-ups that exists only in the bigger picture. Vacth epitomizes the film with her singular performance: detached, but powerful, finding not intimacy within its skin-filled montages, nor passion, but rather intrigue and meaning. She and the film are both cryptic in nature, but in such a way that demands us to glean our own deductions afterwards. Young & Beautiful is a very meticulously made film that is hard to forget.