Kay Armatage, Toronto International Film Festival Catalogue wrote:
Une Vraie Jeune Fille, Catherine Breillat’s first feature film, was shelved for 25 years, apparently because the moral/aesthetic disgust couldn’t be overcome at the time. It was released for the first time this year, and immediately re-ignited the scandal occasioned by Breillat’s last feature, Romance.
The story centres on Alice Bonnard, a young girl attending Saint-Sulvien Girl’s College, and takes place during a summer in the turbulent sixties. Alice comes homes to spend her holidays with her parents in the Landes region. They run a sawmill where they employ a young man, Jim. Business isn’t going well, although Mr. and Mrs. Bonnard are too proud to admit it and Jim’s nonchalant attitude about his job doesn’t help things. Alice is attracted to Jim, but she’s too scared to let him know it, believing that as far as he’s concerned she doesn’t exist. Her tumescent sexuality begins to obsess her. She becomes fascinated with the excretions, juices and smells of her own body as well as with the slimy oozings and putrid detritus of the natural world. The film gives few clues to distinguish the girl’s fantasies from the events of her life. This is fitting, as the entire film revolves around the girl and her own perceptions. The heightened realism of the direction and cinematography produces a text that refuses either to accuse or to exploit.
en.wikipedia.org, Critical response wrote:
Critic Brian Price refers to A Real Young Girl a “…transgressive look at the sexual awakening of an adolescent girl,” an “awkward film” which “…represents Breillat at her most Bataillesque, freely mingling abstract images of female genitalia, mud, and rodents into this otherwise realist account of a young girl’s” coming of age. Price argues that the film’s approach is in line with Linda Williams’ defence of literary pornography, which Williams describes as an “elitist, avant-garde, intellectual, and philosophical pornography of imagination” versus the “…mundane, crass materialism of a dominant mass culture.” Price argues that “there is no way…to integrate this film into a commodity driven system of distribution,” because it “…does not offer visual pleasure, at least not one that comes without intellectual engagement, and more importantly, rigorous self-examination.” As such, Breillat has insisted that “…sex is the subject, not the object, of her work.”
Reviewer Lisa Alspector from the Chicago Reader called the film’s “theories about sexuality and trauma…more nuanced and intuitive” than other film treatments, and noted the film’s use of a blend of dream sequences with realistic scenes John Petrakis from the Chicago Tribune noted that the film’s director, Breillat “…has long been fascinated with the idea that women are not allowed to go through puberty in private but instead seem to be on display for all to watch, a situation that has no parallel with boys.” Petrakis points out that Breillat’s film “…seems acutely aware of this paradox.” Dana Stevens from The New York Times called the film “crude, unpolished, yet curiously dreamy.”Maitland McDonagh from TV Guide also commented on the film’s curious nature in his review, which states that the film is “…neither cheerfully naughty nor suffused with gauzy prurience, it evokes a time of turbulent (and often ugly) emotions with disquieting intensity.” Other reviewers, such as Christian Science Monitor’s David Sterritt view the film as a way of understanding the director’s early development “…as a world-class filmmaker.”
Several reviewers have commented on the film’s frank treatment of unusual sexual fantasies and images. Filmcritic.com’s Christopher Null pointed out that the film was “…widely banned for its hefty pornographic content,” and called it one of Breillat’s “most notorious” films. Null says “… viewers should be warned” about the film’s “graphic shots” of “sexual awakening…(and) sensory disturbances”, such as the female lead vomiting all over herself and playing with her ear wax. While Null rates this “low-budget work… about a 3 out of 10 on the professionalism scale” and admits that “… it barely makes a lick of sense,” he concedes that “there’s something oddly compelling and poetic about the movie.” The Village Voice’s J. Hoberman called the film a “…philosophical gross-out comedy rudely presented from the perspective of a sullen, sexually curious 14-year-old.” The New York Post’s Jonathan Foreman called the film a “… test of endurance, and not just because you need a rather stronger word than “explicit” to describe this long-unreleased, self-consciously provocative film.”
Great film. There’s an interesting story around the film: the film was never released after it was made – it had its first major screening at the rotterdam film festival three years ago (?). had it been released, i think it would have had a profound influence – watching it 30 years later is still a very strong experience. the film is based on a novel catherine breillat wrote when she was 16 – but its sale was restricted to those over 18 – so she couldn’t buy her own book!