One of the most provocative and vibrant filmmakers to emerge during the 1990s, French director François Ozon has distinguished himself with dark, mordantly psychological films that draw their impact from Ozon's frank and often disturbing explorations of transgression and sexuality. Combining wry humor, sensitivity, and subversive insight with a talent for manipulation, Ozon has earned comparisons to Hitchcock and Chabrol, directors whose works have provided ample inspiration for the young director as he has staked out his own, impressive territory in the cinema.
Born in Paris in 1967, Ozon became interested in filmmaking at a young age. The son of bourgeois intellectuals, he was influenced by such Hollywood-based European directors as Hitchcock, Max Ophuls, and Jean Renoir, and also found great inspiration in the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (one of Fassbinder's early plays would later inspire Ozon's Water Drops on Burning Rocks). After earning a master's degree in cinema, Ozon attended FEMIS, France's prestigious national film school, and began turning out large numbers of Super 8, video, and 16 mm films, some of which took their cues from the numerous home movies Ozon's father shot during his son's childhood. Many of these shorts were screened at various international film festivals or screened on French television, and in 1996 Ozon was awarded the Locarno Film Festival's Leopard de Demain for A Summer Dress, a winsome short about a young, gay man on holiday with his boyfriend who has a brief fling with a girl and, after losing his clothes, is forced to wear her dress. A Summer Dress would be released in the U.S. the following year alongside Ozon's first semi-feature-length film, See the Sea. A darkly sexual, elegantly menacing suspense drama about a young mother alone on a seaside holiday who opens her home and life to a sullen young backpacker, the film established its director as a master of composition and psychological manipulation, and announced him as a major new talent.