Four songs and four seasons provide the pace of “Young and beautiful” (title in French: “Jeune et Jolie”), the absorbing new film by France’s Francois Ozon (“The swimming pool”) which comes out this week. But the film’s neat organization serves another purpose: to make the whiplash effect that will be felt later on even cruder.
As he’s done in previous films Ozon frames family life carefully: he plies us with all its clichés but doesn’t make his characters trivial. We know these people on a first-name basis but there’s a part of mystery about them, especially where Isabelle, played by newcomer Marine Vacth, is concerned.
Vacth reminds me of a Laetitia Casta, Maiwenn and Arianna Nastro of Saverio Costanzo’s “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” (2010) all mixed together. Bearing the humanoid-like physique of a model (this is actually her main métier) Vacth shows emotion only sparingly. And yet she carries the entire film on her frail shoulders.
Isabelle and her family are taking their summer vacation in the south of France. A beachside town, an awkward encounter between two teenagers. Ozon is a master at making us slide into conventional bliss. We gobble up the clichés since they make us nostalgic, but they’ll be just as destabilizing, later on.
Isabelle meets Max and a tryst between them that probably never stood a chance falls apart after Isabelle suddenly withdraws into herself, leaving the boy befuddled. The family returns to Paris and life starts again anew. In the very next scene Isabelle walks into a fancy hotel room and talks with a man sitting on a bed, about forty years older than her and who declares that she doesn’t look like in the pictures she posted online.
Reading between the lines of “Young & Beautiful” will provide the less romantic viewer with an acute commentary on sexting and hypersexualized adolescents getting it on more than ever before thanks to the internet. But “Young & Beautiful” is first of all a cinematic story, a film (it could’ve been called “L’histoire d’Isabelle”) that once more establishes François Ozon as an outstanding filmmaker.
Follow us on Twitter @ScreenComment for daily movies updates