I was first intrigued by this film when I read that Marine Vacth, one of my favorite fashionable Parisians, was starring in it. I read some reviews and discovered it is another French film about a fairly happy woman who becomes a prostitute mainly for pleasure. It’s not just me, this is a big theme in French cinema: Belle du Jour, Elles, Vivre sa Vie, Mon Homme, to name a few. Maybe it’s due to a long history of powerful and alluring French mistresses, I don’t know, but the happy prostitute seems to be a popular theme. And why not? It’s refreshing to see a woman enjoying herself. However, at least in the older films, morality comes knocking and the story usually ends in tears.
Jeune et Jolie was a fresh and interesting take on this theme; a 17 year old, beautiful girl (Marine Vacth) is on summer vacation with her family and loses her virginity to an young German tourist. Totally unfulfilled, she is later propositioned by an older man outside of her school, and curiosity gets the best of her. Not every encounter is pleasurable, but she does develop a bond with an older gentleman and begins to experience the sexual awakening she has been longing for. Eventually her family finds out and she is adequately scorned and sent to therapy for what they believe is some kind of “mental illness”. However, Vacth’s character fails to feel much remorse for her actions, and we are left wondering what’s so wrong with the whole profession after all, so long as she’s doing it voluntarily. She claims to enjoy it. The end of this film didn’t leave me pitying her as most films about prostitution do, it merely left me thinking “well, why not?”.
Vacth’s performance is subtle and intuitive. Previously a model, Orzon shot the film sequentially in order to help Vacth get into character. She has a stunning face and presence on screen- she posseses a stillness and melancholia that is very mysterious and appealing. I loved this film, visually, and will definitely watch it again.