KYD Advent Calendar

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.

9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

22432611

S.A. Jones

The modern epistolary novel: Annabel Smith’s The Ark

Annabel Smith has given the epistolary novel a twenty-first century reboot in her recently-released dystopian novel The Ark. Told through emails, blogs, procedural reports, speech transcripts and the occasional newspaper clipping, this impressive technical feat of storytelling is a clever and appropriate twinning of form and function. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

Swans_To_Be_Kind

Chad Parkhill

Against the Album of the Year

We won’t see an end to end-of-year album and song lists any time soon – it’s hard enough for sites and publications to turn a buck without scorning one of the easiest means of acquiring sales and page views. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. Read more »