In the past few years Cannes has had women trouble. The trouble being there aren’t any, or very few, behind the films that screen at the festival. Last year, the fest was widely critiqued for not including a single female director in its main competition. This year, there is one, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, whose film A Castle in Italy has received lukewarm reviews. The lack of women directors at the festival is truly frustrating and speaks to a deeper cultural problem when it comes to acknowledging women working in film. French director Francois Ozon hit this raw nerve when during an interview at Cannes he said: “it’s a fantasy of many women to do prostitution.”
French cinema and prostitution have a long history (think of Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie), and Ozon continued this tradition with Young & Beautiful. A tale of a Parisian teen turned prostitute, the film has been getting mixed reviews. The erudite critic Manohla Dargis, however, called it “staggeringly obtuse” and made the telling observation that Ozon treats his character’s move into prostitution “as an ordinary, actually banal stage in her developmental life.” Fitting, given his above statement.
Ozon continued to dig himself into a sexist hole during the interview, going on to say: “the fact to be paid to have sex is something which is very obvious in feminine sexuality.” As The Frisky points out, Ozon isn’t really talking about sexuality in any nuanced way, but just putting forth stereotypes of women as “passive objects”—in other words, women aren’t makers of stories, but just vehicles in them. Come on, Ozon, you (and Cannes) can do better.