Cannes Review: 'Jeune et Jolie'

Dear Penthouse Forum,

This never happens to me, so I had to write about it. I flew all the way to the Cannes Film Festival to see the best in international cinema and perhaps have a few sips of wine at a cafe along the Mediterranean. But you won't believe the things I saw in this devilishly elegant theater (red velvet and everything) right on the water.

The movie, "Jeune et Jolie," opens on the beach. A girl not yet seventeen is bathing topless, and we're watching her through binoculars. Turns out they're being held by her brother, which may sound gross, but he's French and I guess that makes this sort of thing okay. Turns out he's in cahoots with her to sneak out of a vacation house their family is sharing to go meet this very blonde German kid and lose her virginity. He'll help, but only if she tells him everything.

She doesn't quite tell all, and her loss of innocence (or is it discovery of self?) seems to have worked an emotional number on her. Next thing you know it's a few months later and this young and beautiful (that's what the title means, by the way) girl is now a high priced Internet call girl.

She has no pimp, and she doesn't need the money, and it's not like she's uneducated. (Listen to her classmates interpret Rimbaud!) She's doing it because. . .she likes it? Well, maybe that's it. She does tend to take what can only be described as "Silkwood" showers after each encounter, so there's a part of her that's grossed out. The extremely camera-friendly Marine Vacth offers up only a (perfectly structured) stoneface, so "what the hell is she thinking??!" isn't just what her mother wants to know when she inevitably finds out.

Mom finds out after an older John dies of a heart-attack mid-session. The cops get called in, but since she's still a minor no criminal charges are pressed. It's at this point that the movie loses some of its steam, but also starts making a point. What does first world 21st Century sexual exploitation look like? When is sex-positive empowerment socially irresponsible? And how are we in the audience supposed to react to all these lustful moments with all these people around?

While most movie actresses are, indeed, young and beautiful, we don't frequently see what a life under those conditions would actually be like. I don't know that Francois Ozon's film is in any way meant to be typical, but it isn't impossible to fathom. Its politics are interesting to think about, but that remains very much secondary to the front and center prurience at the heart of this film.

If "Jeune et Jolie" were made by a woman the conversation about it might be different, but the fact remains that this is a movie that bluntly shows a 17 year old girl exploding sex all over the screen. There's a thing she does with a pillow that I'll never forget. And something else with a . . . you know what . . . I'm going to let you see the movie and decide for yourself if this for art patrons or raincoat-wearers.

SCORE: 7.5 / 10