CINEMA REVIEW: ELLE (2016)
TITLE: ELLE (2016)
DIRECTOR: PAUL VERHOEVEN
WRITER: DAVID BIRKE based on the novel Oh by Phillipe Dijan
CAST: ISABEL HUPPERT, LAURENT LAFITTE, ANNE CONSIGNY, CHARLES BERLING, VIRGINIE EFIRA
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
Where do I begin with this film? Is it a comedy? Is it a satire? Is it a drama? Is it a horror film? Well, all of the above I would say and then some. For starters Isabel Huppert SHOULD have won the Oscar for best actress over the candy floss performance of Emma Stone. That genuinely was a first world artistic travesty! Huppert is absolutely sensational as the damaged anti-heroine who having been part of a horrific childhood event is then subjected to a vicious sexual attack in the very first scene. Thus, immediately the film brutalises the main character and makes the audience complicit with her subsequent actions which are complex to say the least. Because as a successful business-woman with a murky past she doesn’t go down the route of victim but rather something completely different.
As it’s directed by the rambunctious cinema satirist Paul Verhoeven I expected a difficult yet entertaining ride, however, this film at times was painful to watch and not what I would call easy entertainment at all. In fact, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more controversy or outrage from the liberal left in the queasy representation of sexual violence. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot to like about the film, especially: the darkly humorous screenplay; the hilarious representations of bourgeois-middle-class-family life; and the unexpected twists in the plots take the breath away. Yet, both male and female humiliation is at the heart of the story and Huppert’s character is kind of unlikeable, making it is difficult to get behind many of her decisions.
Overall, Elle has been laden with awards and received much critical acclaim and I can certainly confirm it is a brave and challenging character drama with very risky themes at its heart. My interpretation is that the writer and filmmakers have a nihilistic view of the French bourgeoisie and that humanity in general is full of damaged lunatics out for what they can get. Essentially too, Huppert’s character has been ruined by the actions of men and her motivations are borne out of trying to gain control of a horrific situation. Thus, I would recommend this film for those who prefer their cinema to challenge, shock and question the nature of sexual politics, rather than spoon feed us fluffy and patriarchal love stories. Because, mainly, this is not a love story but rather one of hate.
(Mark: 8 out of 11 for the film)
(Mark: 11 out of 11 for Isabelle Huppert)