Francois Ozon

IFC Films

François Ozon is no longer an enfant terrible himself and so he has begun to write scripts about them instead. It’s the best thing that could have happened to his career. Last year’s In the House brought an end to a seven-year slump, a return to form as well as a return to the themes that made the French auteur an artist to watch in the first place. It drew strength from Ozon’s fascination with the written word and his dangerous interest in the sensual underbelly of the traditional bourgeois home. It was something of a triumph. And now, a year later, it can be said with assurance that it was not a fluke. Young & Beautiful stars ingenue Marine Vacth as Isabelle, a beautiful and eventually quite enigmatic girl poised on the cusp of her 17th birthday. It is summer and she has a summer romance, a blonde German named Felix who is vacationing in the same gorgeous seaside town as her family. Their fling advances as you might expect, from the awkward hesitations of youth to the frenetic and abrupt ecstasy of sexual discovery. For Isabelle the loss of her virginity is quite literally an out of body experience, Ozon choosing this moment for the most obvious show of his directorial hand in the film. She watches herself from above with a somewhat perplexed expression, not entirely sure yet what this coupling on the sand will mean. As it turns out, that’s about it for Felix. The family returns to Paris and Isabelle forgets him without […]

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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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review in the house

To say that François Ozon has worked in many genres would be a misstatement, but only because his films tend to ignore the boundaries of genre in the first place. 8 Women is a musical, melodrama and murder mystery. Swimming Pool is a thriller inflected by romance novels. Sitcom is a fusion of sitcom tropes and rambunctious sexuality. And now, Ozon has made a film that functions almost as a retrospective blend of his own prior work. In the House builds from the insightful narrative trickery of Swimming Pool, blends in the promiscuous anarchy and wry humor of Sitcom, and drops the whole thing into the otherwise boring “inspirational schoolteacher” movie. The result is Ozon’s best work in a decade.

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