ELLE (2016)



Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Written By: David Birke
French Adaptation: Harold Manning
Based on the book by: Philippe Djian
Cinematography By: Stephane Fontaine
Editor: Job Ter Burg 

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Cosigny, Charles Berling, Christina Berkel, Vilmala Pons, Alice Issaz 

Michèle seems indestructible. Head of a successful video game company, she brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business. Being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes Michèle’s life forever. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game-a game that may, at any moment, spiral out of control.

Originally the plan was to film this movie in America with an American actress. Though when the script was sent out many actresses refused the role for various reasons. When Isabelle Huppert read the original book she wanted to make and star in the film so when she found out that Verhoeven was making it she agreed to star.

This is definitely a Paul Verhoeven film. As it has his tell tale signature as far as interests. He is a cinematic provocateur. Even in more conventional films that he directs he likes to add hint to challenge the audience. While allowing the narrative to include his own interests. He seems more into presenting satire and making films that show effects on society or examining characters in more extreme situations where there is more sex and violence challenging convictions and conventions.

When the film first begins with the score you feel the familiar Verhoeven vibes and impulses that continue into the first scene which has his typical features. As the film deals with sex and rape in particular and instead of portraying the aftermath  in a more dramatic victimization way.It it more presented as just another problem in her hectic life and adds in a mystery. Though her reaction to it is the more shocking result of the film

Isabelle Huppert gives her all. It might be a surprising performance for most of the audience but this feels familiar if you follow her career. To roles that are quite similar that she has played that are usually controversial on movies like MA MERE and THE PIANO TEACHER. That doesn’t take away from this one. A brave unapologetic one.

Throughout the film we get to see all the other things that are going on in her life. That doesn’t focus on the rape that happens in the first scene. It doesn’t let it define the film. It is a noted detail a mystery that drives her and gives all the things that happen around her some shaping and depth. Allowing for a different point of view.

The film seems to use a powerful event in the film kind of be an anchor. More the films darkest side. While the rest of the film is already itself pretty dark in a more cynical way

As she is still stalked and the mystery of the identity of the rapist depends as we see many suspects of who it could be as she is disliked by many and isn’t the most moral of character.

Throughout the film she flashes back and fantasizes about the even where we get to see it from different points of view and ways it could have ended up.

Obsessive workaholic that has ruined her relationships or has given her a way of not totally relating to others as normal as her relationships are friendly but strained to a degree

She doesn’t enjoy it but it disrupts her routine enough that it gets her to thinking and taking into account the many mistakes she has made and bad things she has done. Making her wonder even for a bit that she might deserve it and punished herself to a degree, before seemingly coming to her senses more or less.

It is a role not foreign to Isabelle Huppert who always seems to play an extension of the humorless, cold protagonist who might have a kink or two who is wound up tight through desires some kind of human interaction, intimacy and bond

Other than the opening scene. The scene in which she informs her friends and family of her attack and how logical and calm she describes it. Will be the true test for some audience members as to the tone the film will have throughout And the scene has a kind of punchline at the end of it. That works but for some might find distasteful.

So beware again this is a film not for some and not for a general audience as far as being hair for entertainment. His film leans more on the artistic side. Which while still around is being made less and less.

This is a cynical dark film with a surprising amount of humor. Where as we learn about most of the characters most of them are not necessarily likeable as her all have a past and act plus behavior that are reprehensible with secrets to hide.

Which is only heightened by the masculine violent and sexual atmosphere she is surrounded by and lives in. Though realizing it dealing with it and being the shark she has to be but also acceptable and seeking a certain penance. To a point she feels she deserves punishment but also atones then proves herself to be a survivor.

Though there are other characters who add to the dynamic. It’s totally Huppert’s film in a tour de force performance. Which is a culmination of the roles she played before. Though this will be the one she is going to be remembered for.

The film does feel a bit too long. It could have been cut down to a degree but feels more like it is feeding the atmosphere and meant to add to the ambiance and have us inhabit the world she loves in more. Which might be the reason for the absorbent running time.

Even when the perpetrator is revealed the film continues.

As the film treats them not as a monster but as human. At first it is even treated more like a sick fetish then showing the disturbing character and their defects that run underneath.

We also learn about her as she is connected to a notorious character how that affected and still does affect her psyche.

This is a challenging film that is not meant to offend but offers up obstacles but still feels refined to a degree. That seems to have more of a European sensibility.

The film is presented more as a thriller in practice yet comes off more as a character study by default involving humor yet more drama


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