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Marine Vacth is the one of three faces in Miu Miu's spring 2015 advertising campaign. The French model-turned-actor starred in one of 2013's most critically acclaimed films, Young and & Beautiful, and Dominic Corry caught up with at the time, in Paris, to discuss the heavy role – the film is about prostitution – as well as her plans for the future.
When it comes to sex, the French simply have more leeway. If sex is being utilised to tell a story or make a point, they can go much further before accusations of exploitation enter the conversation.
Such a dynamic is key to Jeune & Jene & Jolie (Young & Beautiful) the new film from celebrated French writer/director François Ozon (8 Women, Swimming Pool). A hypnotic tale of a teenage girl's journey of self-discovery, it stars model-turned-actress Marine Vacth, a shimmering vision of pulchritude upon whose shoulders the film ably rests.
Previously best known as the face of Yves Saint Laurent perfume Parisienne (she replaced Kate Moss), the 22-year-old Vacth is one of those people whose faces look like they were carved out of marble. The gargantuan smokey eyes which dominate her visage give way to intimidating cheek bones and naturally bountiful lips.
She is without a doubt one of the most beautiful women who has ever lived, and she's sitting opposite me on a couch in a Parisian hotel room. Here to discuss her role in Young & Beautiful - which is released in Australasia this April - Vacth is softly-spoken and more delicate in person than she appears on screen. There's a warmth to her demeanor that is lacking in Isabelle, the 17-year-old she plays in the film.
Soon after we meet Isabelle in Young & Beautiful she loses her virginity to a random guy she meets on a family holiday. Underwhelmed by the experience, Isabelle subsequently begins to explore the world of online prostitution. After setting herself up with a profile and a secret cellphone, she begins having sex with a succession of older rich men for money.
Despite the heavy subject matter, the film shies away from didacticism. Isabelle is the focus here, not the morality of her actions. Ozon delves deep into her mind, while somehow keeping the character at arm's length. It's all very...French.
Vacth is sensational in the film - it's a star-making role if ever there was one. She's aware of the skepticism that often meets models who become actresses, but she doesn't seem in the slightest bit concerned about it.
"Many people do say that when you're a model you can't go into acting" she told me. "But not feeling truly myself as a model, not seeing myself as one, and not espcially having dreams of becoming an actress either, it's just a succession of events really."
Was she concerned by the excessive nudity the film required?
"A little. I was a bit afraid before accepting the part, but after the numerous discussions with Francois [Ozon, the writer/director], I knew what he wouldn't do, where he wasn't gonna go. I also knew how he films women in general, and it's never obscene or voyeuristic, and those scenes in the movie had a purpose. Nudity can be a costume as well. I worked on those scenes just as I would on any other scene. "
Indeed, Ozon has become famous for directing actresses in iconically sexy roles – most famously Ludivine Sagnier in the acclaimed 2003 thriller Swimming Pool. Young & Beautiful is far less erotic than the earlier film, and as Vacth says above, the sex scenes have a vital role to play in the film.
Of his latest leading lady, Ozon says: "The moment I met her, I was struck by an impression of extreme fragility, and at the same time, strength. She is extremely photogenic, and not just on the surface. Filming her reminded me of filming Charlotte Rampling in Under The Sand (2000). Her face, the texture of her skin...there's something going on beneath the surface. Her obvious physical beauty holds a mystery, a secret. It arouses our curiosity, we want to know more."
Vacth has repeatedly cited Rampling (who was also in Swimming Pool) as an inspiration, and the older actress turns up at the end of Young & Beautiful in a small but critical role. Vacth relished the chance to act opposite her idol:
"To meet her was very smooth; calm; simple. Not obvious, but natural and I don't know why, but I just felt really close to her."
It feels positively gauche to even suggest it, but journalistic norms demand that I enquire as to whether Vacth is at all concerned that her film could present an unrealistic or even attractive portrayal of prostitution to young women?
"I didn't think about that. It's a film. It's cinema. I don't think it's an apology for prostitution, it's just an isolated case, and if people think it can create a desire in young women, I just don't know about that. Many films can be confusing in this way for young people. I met young girls who came to see me after the screenings, and that's not what they really got from the film. If someone think it makes prostitution look easy, I don't know how to respond to that."
So how does she view Isabelle's course of action?
"I think what she gets is she receives other people's desires, and she discovers herself through it. It's through her experiences that she learns many things. She gains access to the adult world and adulthood itself."
With such an assured first leading role, Hollywood is bound to come calling. Does the commercial filmmaking route interest her at all?
"Not really. It depends. I dunno. It can be a good part in a big commercial movie and its playful – that's okay. I don't know what I prefer, I've only had a few experiences."
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