Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: Jeune et Jolie

You will know from your attendance at Political Correctness 101 that films about prostitution must portray the men as creeps, abusers and preferably violent with it, while the prostitute must be portrayed as a victim of deception, drugs, economic injustice, male violence or, and this is risky, as a plucky single mother making a living the only way she can (before realising the error of her ways, cleaning up and getting a job as an out-reach worker). Prostitution is about providing men with sex, and that means eeeuuuugh! men! and even more eeeeuuuugh! hetero-sex. The central question the film-maker must address is why the heroine would do anything so icky and degrading as, you know, have sex. With men. Who aren't hot. Because disgusting. And Patriarchy. And Girls Are Victims. Of Everything.

So now let's proceed to the film review. Jeune et Joli is a film about a 17-year old girl, Isabelle, who looks a lot like Marine Vacth, who sets up as a part-time prostitute in her Year 13. She loses her virginity to a fit-looking but shallow German boy during the summer holiday, and then, prompted by a) a slightly creepy guy who approaches her after school and gives her his number, and b) what must by now be the annual TV documentary about undergraduates and prostitution, sets up online as a call-girl. Her clients are variously creepy, old, fat and middle-aged, and okay and middle-aged. She charges 300 euros an hour, which certain websites in this country will confirm is pretty much what a girl who looked like Marine Vacth could charge. This bit puzzled the critics: she puts the money in a zip-case in her wardrobe and doesn't spend a euro. (That is Ozon cutting off cliched explanations.

The old guy dies on her mid-act. She scarpers from the hotel. The Police catch up and break the news to her mother, whose reactions are a study in female solipsism, but not more so than we would expect. Anyone Blaming The Family is pushing it.

There's some attempt towards the end at psychological explanation with the legally-compulsory therapist. I found these unconvincing, and I think we are supposed to: again, it's Ozon cutting us off from cliched explanations.

There's also some attempt to suggest that charging 300 euros an hour improves her sense of worth and social confidence, which is most convincing as she walks through a house party full of teenagers doing drunken teenage-y things, and smiles at it all with the air of someone who Knows Way Better. I could buy that as the reaction of a teenage girl in that situation, and therefore as writerly accuracy, but not as authorial assertion. Otherwise Ozon is offering us prostitution as self-development, and I'm going to guess he doesn't believe that any more than I do.

All the critics mention Belle du Jour Of course they do. Ozon even does a visual quote from Bunuel's film to mis-direct them.

(Intentionally misleading visual quote)

But of course they shouldn't. What they should mention is Bonjour Tristesse another novel / film about an amoral young woman. Written in the 1950's it couldn't make its heroine a hooker, so she simply causes a middle-aged lover of her father to commit suicide by bad driving so she and Daddy can go back to being empty hedonists. Real cute kid huh? Oh, and nobody asked why she did that because they were all grown up enough to know why.

Ozon is assuming that we are all grown-up enough to know why Isabelle did it. Teenage girl, hot, and because for Isabelle there's no oxytocin to create spurious bonding and confusing emotions. She did it because she could: the motive of the powerful at all times and everywhere. And that's what breaks every rule you learned in PC 101.

The final bit has Charlotte Rampling as Dead Guy's wife meeting Isabelle to exorcise demons by visiting the room he died in. I wondered about that scene for a while. I kept expecting Rampling to put a knife through Vacth. But no. Instead, she's the only person who actually seems to understand anything about Isabelle. And certainly the only one who shows her any kindness. But then, Rampling's character is a grown-up woman who only exists in movies. She's the real fantasy figure, not Isabelle.

Flip the PC police the bird. Go see it

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