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“Adolescence is the birth of disillusion”

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François Ozon • Director

- Back in competition in Cannes for the first time since 2003, the French filmmaker deciphers the mysteries of the teenager in Young and Beautiful

François Ozon • Director

Accompanied by his cast (Marina Vacth, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot and Fantin Ravat) and producers Eric and Nicolas Altmayer, François Ozon shared a few leads with the international press to help them analyze his 14th feature film, Young and Beautiful (Jeune & Jolie) [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: François Ozon
film profile
, unveiled in competition at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.

Far from being a sociological documentary on student prostitution, Young and Beautiful is more of a diagnosis of a teenager's secret awakening to feelings and sensuality. What was your prime intention?
François Ozon
: Adolescence was very much in evidence in my short films and first feature-length movies. But since Under the sand, I have filmed with older actors and actresses. The experience with two young adolescents in In the house [+see also:
film review
film profile
 made me want to work again with this age group. I get the impression that adolescence is extremely idealized in both French and international cinema. I myself have always had a painful memory of my own adolescence, and I wanted to address it with maturity, experience, hindsight. I wanted to depict a young girl of today, anchor her into something quite realistic, but with a rather impressionist staging revolving around the four seasons and four songs. I also wanted to leave blanks, because adolescence remains a mystery, even for me.

How did you find the right distance from which to convey this mystery without making any judgements or falling into a kind of empathy ?
I always tend to set myself at a distance because the spectator is intelligent and there's no need to lay on too much emphasis. But one can identify, especially with the parents. I introduced ups and downs in the narration so that the character could be seen from other viewpoints. All the characters are rather destabilized around Marine, who is something of an exterminating angel. They all try to do their best in a complex situation, but she confronts them with their hypocrisy and lies.

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Is it a film about melancholy?
Adolescence is the birth of disillusion: love is not what one thought, the parents' authority is questioned. Everything begins to crack, because just beforehand, it was all about childhood and idealization. The first time one comes up against sexuality, it's not necessarily great, you're there without really being there, you discover another facet of your personality. Torments of adolescence which are perfectly embodied in Françoise Hardy's songs.

What about student prostitution and dangers arising from the Internet ?
Prostitution has often been addressed in the cinema, by Buñuel, for example, in the sixties, with Belle de jour. I wanted to do away with the motive which immediately springs to mind: that of money. I wanted to give several leads, without any preconceived ideas, living alongside the character without being judgmental. As for the Internet, it's part of reality, but it wasn't my intention to denounce anything at all. There's no moral judgement in the film.

How did you discover and select Marina Vacth?
I did a very wide casting and met lots of young girls aged from 16 to 20. I made lots of tests, something I enjoy doing. When I saw Marina, I immediately found her different from the others, who were firmly anchored in reality. With Marina, I could see an inner world, a mystery in her eyes, which was what I was looking for. I then did some tests with her and Géraldine, because it was very important for the mother-daughter relationship to work, then with Fantin, who plays her young brother. Marina hadn't had much experience, just two films, but being a model certainly helped her in the nude scenes, about which actresses often have reservations.

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