How do we measure a year in the life? In François Ozon’s Young & Beautiful, the at times disparate elements of a sordid tale of a young girl’s experience as a prostitute are set apart by the seasons. What at first seems to be scattered resonants of the different times of year eventually come together quite masterfully in the final saison.
Interestingly, in Young & Beautiful, spring, printemps, does not symbolize a renewal or rebirth. The character of Isabelle, or “Lea”, captivatingly played by young, (but not that young) French actress Marine Vacth, finally completes the seasonal cycle through a dramatic foil that was once Young and Beautiful, but now has come to symbolize the role of uncertain mentor, (the same figure in a similar role is featured prominently on a cable TV show).
Young & Beautiful also features a chilling contrast of young and old in its soundtrack, which alternates at will between an arresting scene buoyed by flashing strobes set to M83’s Midnight City, to wistful ballads by Françoise Hardy accompanying Isabella as she rushes through the rues et avenues of The City of Light, (often, at darkness).
For a film that has seen comparisons to Belle De Jour and Lolita, it is quite alarming how Ozon’s lens transforms Vacth’s body from objet du désir from the very first moment of the opening scene, set the height of summer to something earthier and almost mundane at the fin de l’année. It was a very good year, a Joyeux anniversaire, but one day we wake up, and Young & Beautiful no longer springs forward. Il n’y a plus de saisons d’amour.