Charlotte Rampling

young and beautiful 02

François Ozon arguably let audiences off a little easy with his last two films, the amiably light Potiche and the wryly witty yet discursive In The House. But the director, known for piercing deep into the nature of sexual mores, is back with a doozy in the form of Young & Beautiful. It’s part coming-of-age drama, part thigh-slapping family satire and part morality fable. Fans of the director craving another toothed, bracing effort will find themselves very much at home here. Isabelle (Marine Vacth) is a 17-year-old girl who has developed a natural curiosity about sex and soon enough endures an awkward encounter in which she loses her virgnity (when are they not?) to a local boy. Soon enough Isabelle decides, of her own volition, to become a prostitute. How this will affect both her clients and her family, she is oblivious to until her wild new life eventually — and some might say inevitably — comes suddenly crashing down.

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Despite assertions that I would never consciously put myself through the draining experience of watching one of his films again, this morning saw the first screening of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, a film about the end of the world, as well as one that presents the triumph of melancholia, or the feeling that everything we know is hollow. So, now the credits have rolled, the world has ended and again, I find myself challenged by the dichotomy of a film that consciously aims to jar and jolt, rather than be pleasurable (is there any other way for this director though?). Like Malick’s The Tree of Life, Melancholia is experiential cinema, a film that has limited commercial appeal aside from the names attached to it, that is as much a manifestation of Von Trier as an artist as it is a film in its own right, and long after this film festival is done, it will be those two films that will command the most debate, side-by-side. Both are endurance tests, but Melancholia is something entirely different to that other film, even though both will no doubt split the festival. Is it successful? Incredibly so. Though it’s certainly not an enjoyable experience. But at the end of the day, that’s exactly what the infamous director set out to achieve.

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