FRANÇOIS OZON has always been hard to get a handle on, and thankfully so. Working at a ferocious clip—more than 30 films and shorts since 1988—the director has long demonstrated an ability to quick draw between old-school studio lavish (8 Women) and subtle unease (Swimming Pool, See the Sea) without missing a beat.
Young & Beautiful, Ozon's latest, successfully bridges the gap between his previous films, creating a beautifully shot, resolutely non-judgmental tale of a well-to-do teen (Marine Vacth) who drifts into prostitution. Split into the seasons of a year, Ozon's script follows his subject from her first tentative attempts at rebellion to the inevitable slow-burn fallout, all accompanied by the songs of Françoise Hardy. Given the subject matter, the potential for melodrama is certainly high, but the director's empathetic touch keeps things non-exploitive throughout, especially when combined with Vacth, a former model who makes her surface blankness pay off in a huge way. And then Charlotte Rampling shows up and seals the deal, in a final scene that brilliantly reveals the method behind the alluring, occasionally maddening remove of both the film and its central character. A poker face this good can only be by design.