Jeunes filles impudiques (1973) is a very shy piece of erotica."Lionel [Wallmann]," says director Jean Rollin, "obliged me to put some sex scenes in Requiem...during that dungeon sequence. I told him that I wasn't too fond of that kind of thing, and he answered: 'But you do that kind of thing very well. If we make an entire film like that, I bet it would be successful. You may not like it, but you know how to do it.'" ¶ I said, 'Okay, I'll do it, but I won't invest any of my own money to do it.' Well, he raised the money, we made the film [Jeunes filles impudiques], and he was right. The two sex films I made, this one and Tout le monde il en a deux (1974) were very successful.” (Virgins and Vampires, editied by Peter Blumenstock, Crippled Publishing, Germany: 1997, p. 148)
Jeunes filles impudiques is shy in two ways. One, the film was made during a liminal period in cinema, not just in France but elsewhere. Pornography was not yet legal in France, although it would be at the time his Les demoniaques (1973) opened in her theatres. (Virgins and Vampires, p.149) Erotic cinema, prior to the legalization of pornography, had a clear boundary. How far filmmakers were willing to push their content, in terms of explicitness, towards that boundary, varied. Cultures were changing in their attitudes towards depictions of sex, and hence, perhaps, producer Lionel Wallman’s desire to enter into the sex-film market was a direct result of these cultural changes. The second way that Jeunes filles impudiques is shy, Jean Rollin explains: “It’s strange, but it was more embarrassing for me to shoot my first softcore film, Tout le monde...; I walked off the set one day because I couldn’t direct phony lovemaking. When it became real, I had no problem at all. I really don’t know why. Maybe because in softcore films, the only person revealing his obsession is the director, because he has to call the shots while the actors simply do as they are told. In porno, both the actor and the director are in the same position. One reveals his obsession, and the actors live them out, so there is nothing to be ashamed of.” (Virgins and Vampires, p.148)
Jeunes filles impudiques is about Monica (Joëlle Coeur) and Jackie (Gilda Arancio), two friends who are making a camping trek through the countryside. The two, while wandering, come upon a maison, and from all appearances, it is empty. They decide to spend the night there. A jewel thief (Willy Braque), however, is using the maison as a hideout. When Monica discovers the jewel thief, all three spend the night together, and in the morning, Monica and Jackie leave. The jewel thief’s two associates (Marie Hélène Règne and Pierre Julien) arrive to split the stolen jewelry, and it is revealed that the loot is gone. The trio decides that either Monica or Jackie must have taken the loot, and they go off to find them.
The story of Jeunes filles impudiques plays out like an adolescent detective story. (Interestingly, in Immoral Tales in a footnote, Jacques Orth is revealed as “[t]he sex-film maker Jack Regis, who had also written the script for Rollin’s pseudonymous sex film Jeunes filles impudiques (1972) (Immoral Tales: European Sex and Horror Movies, Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs, St. Martin’s Griffin Press, New York: 1995, pp.158, 176); whereas in a filmography, compiled by Mark Brusinak with Peter Blumenstock, Christian Kessler, and Lucas Balbo in European Trash Cinema Volume 2, Number 8, Nathalie Perry is the credited screenwriter. (edited by Craig Ledbetter, Kingwood, TX: 1993, p.27)) The kindest way to describe the story is to say a youthful energy and curiosity wisp the tale along; while one could also describe the film as tediously episodic and tenuously linked. Take your pick.
Jeunes filles impudiques is a curiosity in Rollin’s curious filmography, of interest for the charismatic presence of Joëlle Coeur and a look into how Rollin would broach the sex-film genre. As to the latter, the first sex scene is revelatory, as is a later scene (which would contain repeated imagery from Rollin’s other cinema.) When Coeur and Arancio arrive at the maison, they find the bedroom upstairs. At a leisurely pace, the two fold down the bed and put slipcovers over the pillows. The two get into bed after undressing and begin cuddling and kissing. The scene never really changes in its energy. Rollin then pans from an ecstatic look from Arancio to a shot near the floor (a finishing or climatic shot, rather than a transition). The scene resumes again, and the sheets are definitely off of the actresses. The flesh is much more on display, and the writhing is pronounced. Seeing the sex scene in two parts, like this, is as if the first wasn’t satisfactory and the second was perfunctory. In a humorous final shot to the scene, Coeur stands at the bedroom door while the camera sits in the hallway. Coeur’s Monica slams the door upon the camera, as if a third scene will play out but not for the viewer. In the film’s best visual sequence, a gazebo is located somewhere near the maison. The gazebo is covered with stained-glass windows of varying colors (which Rollin plays with in a voyeuristic sequence later with Marie Hélène Règne). After Braque’s jewel thief captures Monica and Jackie, Jackie is the first to be interrogated. She is located to the gazebo and bound by her wrists to the ceiling. This is clearly an exploitative scene. Little questioning is done, as Braque takes a small whip to Jackie. Arancio’s nudity is focal as is the kinky bit with the bondage and the whipping. These images do not last long. Rollin cuts to the camera’s point of view, substituting for Jackie‘s. Marie Hélène Règne circles her victim as the camera makes a circular pan. Her ultimate act of torture is trimming Jackie’s hair with scissors. However, the scene concludes with a nasty act by Règne, but it just appears as perfunctory exploitation fare.
Joëlle Coeur was a painter who was suggested to Rollin for the role of Monica by a mutual friend. (Immoral Tales, p.150). She also stars in Tout le monde and Les demoniaques. Coeur is amazingly beautiful, and it is quite evident that Rollin was completely taken with her charisma. In several scenes, it appears as if she is just doing what she wants, and Rollin has no problem with that. Her absence is felt when she is not on screen.
I am certainly glad that I was able to see Jeunes filles impudiques in an English-language version via the DVD released by Redemption. It ultimately comes off as uninspired straight sex film, although there is Rollin’s sweet sensibility and shyness carrying the film. Jeunes filles impudiques is ultimately of interest to Rollin’s fans and is definitely worth a peek.