A Real Young Girl
Breillat's films and novels are often about the "erotic and emotional lives of young women, as told from the woman's perspective," typically using "blunt language and open depiction of sexual subject matter."
This sentence from Breillat's wikipedia page is a good indication of why I was eager to do a marathon of her films, even though the one film of hers I had seen, Bluebeard, left me a little lukewarm. The coming of age tale for females, especially as it relates to feminist concerns about female sexuality, are of particular interest to me. It was a central concern of David Hamilton's filmmaking and so it is with Breillat as well.
Now, this film is described as a 14-year-old's sexual awakening. I've defended films in the past that use tween/teen actresses in edgy roles but this film is quite another step beyond, so it is not surprising that the lead actress, Charlotte Alexandra, was 21. She's not even a 21 passing for 14, she looks very much an adult here. Arguably this takes out a bit of realism, but once you get into the film, it takes on such a poetic remove that the age of the actress is just another step away, and one that would probably make the audience a little less disturbed. I'm actually a bit shocked that this film was fairly widely banned considering the actress is an adult. It may be highly graphic material by mainstream film standards but it certainly doesn't do anything so shocking that it would be rated worse than pornography.
One of the first things to notice here is the quite pedestrian cinematography. The quality of the picture, the framing, it is all rather uninspired. Compare this to Bluebeard which has some truly fantastic shots and it seems Breillat comes a long way.
Unfortunately I didn't find Alice here relatable. You never get a real sense about the source of her oddness. I'm not sure Alexandra really does much to sell you on it either. Given the character's name and the blue dress and red shoes she wears through much of it, it seems to be hinting at things like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. There is some symbolism on display in how different shots are juxtaposed, and there is some aspect about how hard it is for a girl to control her own sexuality, either being repressed (her mom says she's dressed like a whore) or forced upon her (a man exposes himself to her). But at the end of the day it is rather messy and inelegant in getting these things across. The broader plot doesn't really go anywhere interesting.
As a start, A Real Young Girl is I suppose promising enough but I hope Breillat's craft improves quickly, as it will need to for any true gems to emerge.