Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Film

Sex and the teenage girl

by Rochelle Siemienowicz , May 1, 20142 Comments

Young and Beautiful

 

‘All people who love cinema are voyeurs’, according to French film director François Ozon. Is there really anything wrong with that? We’re there to watch, and if our eyes love beauty – the glory of the human face and body – why condemn them? But when that beauty belongs to very young women who take their clothes off and appear to have sex on screen for our entertainment, there comes a point when you wonder if by sitting in the cinema watching, you’re becoming a dirty old pervert. Or at least, that was the way I felt when I watched Young & Beautiful, the latest film from Ozon (Swimming Pool, Under the Sand, 8 Women) about a 17-year-old Parisian schoolgirl who takes up prostitution as a secret hobby.

Like a peeping tom, Ozon first introduces Isabelle (Marine Vacth) through the spying eyes of her little brother’s binoculars. We see her sunbaking topless on one of those pebbly European beaches that make Australians feel superior. Later that night, the painfully skinny and rather sullen-looking (but yes, incredibly beautiful) Isabelle will lose her virginity, without fanfare or romance, to a redheaded German tourist. As he’s thrusting away, she feels herself splitting off, as if she’s watching the action from afar, as a spectator. It’s the only real clue we get as to why, when she returns from her holiday, she sets herself up as a high class call girl, selling sex to men who are old enough to be her grandfather. When she’s eventually discovered by the police, she can’t explain why she’s doing it. Her mother is distraught and her psychologist is puzzled.

The mystery of Isabelle’s motivation need not be fully solved. Why should all behaviour make sense, especially that of impulsive and rebellious teenagers? And the film’s refusal to judge or condemn is fair enough. But what’s creepy is the way it adores the flesh of its sulky and uncommunicative young subject – selling it in the very title and poster art for the movie – and offering no real story, no real understanding, and inviting no empathy. Instead, it’s a very beautiful but vacuous portrait of the oft-naked Vacth – full lips, silky hair and narrow hips – all overlaid with some melancholy French pop songs. It made me squirm.

For a more fully realised and altogether more fascinating film about sex and the teenage girl, check out indie Australian drama 52 Tuesdays, directed by Sophie Hyde (Life in Movement) and performed entirely by a cast of untrained actors. Shot consecutively every Tuesday for a year in Adelaide, the story follows the articulate and funny 16-year-old Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) whose lesbian mother (Del Herbert-Jane) is undergoing gender transition to become a man. Feeling rejected and confused, Billie undergoes her own kind of rebellious sexual discovery, aided by a video camera and a couple of adventurous school pals (Imogen Archer and Sam Althuizen) with whom she forms an unconventional threesome.

Shot in the form of a video diary that traces both the mother’s sex change as well as the teenage girl’s journey, 52 Tuesdays is expertly edited (by Bryan Mason) to create a story that invites us not just to look, but to understand and to feel as well. The time-lapse nature of the experiment is a huge part of its pleasure. We look with fascination as hair grows, breasts disappear, beards are cultivated and discarded, and the very young Cobham-Hervey seems to grow wiser and more wary by the minute. But we’re just as engaged by the emotional questions raised: how can this family work? And is this child-on-the-verge-of-womanhood safe from herself?

The desire to look – at others and at oneself – is taken for granted as a natural and healthy one in 52 Tuesdays. And yet, without giving away too much of the story, it hits home with a strong message about the need to protect the young from themselves. Voyeurism has its limits.

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a Melbourne-based film journalist, reviewer and editor. 

ACO logo




  • Danielle

    I felt uncomfortable just watching the trailer for “Jeune & jolie”, so I don’t think I’ll even attempt the film. But “52 Tuesdays” sounds very interesting (another little something for Aussies to feel superior about?)

  • Mel Campbell

    Re: Young and Beautiful, I’m reminded of that awful film Elles with Juliette Binoche as a journalist interviewing teenage call girls and incorporating her weird value judgments about their job into her own posh, unhappy life.

9781863957120

James Tierney

Dissonance and Tradition: Andrew Ford’s Earth Dances

Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive is a vivid and rarely less than astute history of the debt modern music simultaneously owes to the inheritances of tradition, and the texture of dissonance. Read more »

monroe

James Tierney

Survival and Contradiction: Jacqueline Rose’s Women in Dark Times

This book’s most impressive trick is in the way it pulls together seemingly disparate figures. In this fierce, insightful and wide-ranging collection, Jacqueline Rose calls for nothing less than a reformulation of feminism. Read more »

Clive-James-typical-mix-o-014

Cosima McGrath

The Unreliable Truth of Clive James

Some authors hermit themselves away and are unknowable to the public except through their writing. Clive James, on the other hand, carries his own spotlight. Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

fx-2015-winter-tcajpeg-069cb_c0-146-3500-2186_s561x327

Rebecca Shaw

Billy, Don’t Be a Homophobe

As a non-heterosexual person who has lived my entire life in a heteronormative world, I have a finely tuned antenna for homophobia. Loaded terms, like those used recently by Billy Crystal, are becoming more common, as it becomes less acceptable to state openly that you get an icky feeling when you see two people of the same sex kiss. Read more »

B5QJwMhIYAAfjxG

Rebecca Shaw

A Tale of Two Penises: Double Dick Dude and the invisibility of male bisexuality

For the past year I have found myself fascinated by penises. If I’d been to the races, I would have created a monstrous dick fascinator to wear as a beautiful physical representation of my mental state. But let me be clear, I have not been captivated with all or even many penises. My fascination has solely been aimed at the two penises owned by the man known only as ‘Diphallic Dude’, or more casually ‘DoubleDickDude’. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

cdn.indiewire

Kate Middleton

On the Trail: Wild and the voyage of the modern woman

Strayed articulates the question that drives so many pilgrimage narratives: ‘What if I forgive myself?’ That same question perhaps suggests why female-driven journeys are resonating with audiences now: self-reliance and the abandonment of a conventional life have long been male-dominated themes. Read more »

Film Review Selma

Anwen Crawford

An Urgent and Motivating Anger: The politics of Selma

How to approach a figure with the reputation of a secular saint? One achievement of Selma – and it is a film of many achievements – is to reanimate King as a living, breathing man; a man of politics, strategy, and absolute, underlying resolve. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

39154_4f8f076801b89b442752af76ac226fc0

Anwen Crawford

Satire and Scandal: Revisiting Frontline

Frontline’s makers could not have anticipated the long, web-based afterlife of their creation, though they might not be surprised that their targets – the rampant egotism and moral hypocrisies of tabloid journalism – remain just as current. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

wowx5-artwork-012-full

Katie Williams

Killing Monsters and Making Memories: How virtual worlds facilitate communication

When I hang out with my brother, we joke, make fun of each other, and swap stories about mutual friends. Sometimes, we’ll each pack a bag of stat-enhancing potions and go out to kill large monsters. It’s been well over a year since I saw my brother in the flesh – but thanks to World of Warcraft, I interact with him on a daily basis. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »

The-Rabbits-2015-1280x470

Jane Howard

Thinking Outside the Box Seats: The future of Australian opera and musical theatre

If we want to see new work and innovation grow in opera and musical theatre, we need to consider how they might develop within our culture. Read more »

MovingMusicAndreCastellucci1

Jane Howard

The (Sometimes) Beauty of Being Alone at the Theatre

I often go to the theatre on my own. One of the great joys of writing reviews is that even when I attend productions solo, I still get to talk (write) about them at length after the fact. Seeing theatre is a wonderful activity to do unaccompanied, because as soon as the performance starts, everyone is alone in some way. Read more »