Elle (2016)

Elle (2016)


Rape revenge thriller starring Isabelle Huppert from director Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct). Nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes 2016.... More

"Michèle seems indestructible. Head of a leading 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." (Cannes)Hide

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Flicks Review

Paul Verhoeven’s first full length film since 2006’s Black Book see him paired with Isabelle Huppert, a union primed for maximum moral ambiguity. Elle does not disappoint in that regard, but does see Verhoeven dialling down his more lurid impulses, delivering a complex, layered drama inside the body of a thriller.... More

Huppert is ideally cast as Elle, a woman keeping vast reservoirs of trauma at bay behind a perfectly composed facade. Over the course of the film, the facade is peeled away and we get a glimpse of her inner workings, learn about the events that shaped her, and how the sexual assault that starts the film could leave her angry but not as scarred as one might expect.

Elle’s somewhat blasé response to her assault is just one of several morally thorny ideas that pop up throughout the film, and while Verhoeven still clearly loves to provoke, his control of tone ensures the film’s success. By treating Elle’s assault seriously he’s able to explore her response in the same terms, never giving into melodrama, just observing and letting us form our own opinions.

He also delivers a cracking thriller that builds to a rousing conclusion, contains mysteries that are expertly teased out, and is often very funny. It’s a very entertaining film about a despicable crime, impeccably acted by Huppert, who has the tricky task of being the audience's focal point while remaining an enigma. If this is Verhoeven mellowing in his old age we should hope for many more of its kind.Hide

The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 5 ratings, 2 reviews
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The ever reliable Isabelle Huppert performs well given the circumstances - a wildly improbable plot. Some of the other characters and their characterisations are frankly laughable. - And her son, well he may be a douche, but couldn't they have found a better actor. It's watchable, if only to see where it's going, but getting ther isn't worth the trouble. In the end it's disappointing tosh. Thrilled - I wasn't!

BY cinemusefilm superstar

The women’s film label covers the spectrum of feminine empowerment to absolute degradation and several can be read both ways. Elle (2016) is one of the ambivalent ones that can be read as a tale of strong self-assertion or, equally valid, as a tale of a compliant victim of transgressive sexuality and gender disrespect. The story is framed against the violent porn video game industry where women are routinely sacrificed to male gratification and dominance. In the context of video games, sexual... More assault and other forms of humiliation are normalised and this reality merges with the Elle narrative on fantasy and victimhood.

Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) is a successful Parisian video game entrepreneur who leads a company of testosterone-fuelled hipsters whose job it is to hyper-stimulate young males into doing things to women in video cyber-worlds. The film’s opening scenes are both disturbing and banal: Michelle appears to be violently raped by a masked intruder and then proceeds to tidy up the mess with barely more than an air of inconvenience. No, it is not a video game, and yes, it happens again as do several other normalised sexual transgressions. For example, when she discovers the staffer who pasted her face onto a video game assault victim she asks the person to expose his genitals in her office. Rather than an opportunity for reverse humiliation or worse, she only says “pretty” and walks off leaving us wondering if she is seriously cool or seriously damaged.

Divergent plotlines fill out the character of Michelle to explain the reasons for her impassivity. Her father is in prison for crimes against children and her mother pays for sex with younger men. She sleeps with her business partner’s husband and lusts for her neighbour, all while lying with the comfort of someone who lives in the twilight world between video game brutality and real-world immorality. While appearing indestructible in her business life her emotional world is a fragile void that cannot be filled with normal relationships. The several scenes that dwell suggestively on her face oozing repressed sexual desire hint darkly of a deeply troubled soul.

This is a compelling film that examines the parallel universe of a woman who is both a perpetrator and a victim of sexual transgression and who lives under the guise of wealth and respectability. As such, it is also a portrait of hypocrisy and moral extremities with audience voyeurism forming the picture frame. Isabelle Huppert pushes this role to its limits while showing little emotion beyond what she can say with her expressive eyes. It is hard to judge a survivor like her, and we can only guess what keeps her head together. This film is one of many that push back the cultural envelope that has kept women’s sexuality on a pedestal.Hide

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The Press Reviews

92% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • A film that runs boldly up and down the tonal bandwidth, zig-zagging from pitch-black horror to devilish satire to light domestic comedy and then back again. Full Review

  • A beautiful dark twisted French fantasy. Full Review

  • High-risk material yields unexpected rewards in this remarkable rape-revenge drama, a possible career high for Paul Verhoeven. Full Review

  • Takes constant delight in venturing where the vast majority of filmmakers would fear to tread. Full Review

  • Michele is a fascinatingly complex character and her response is highly personal, rooted in a lifetime of emotional callousness. The character works thanks to Isabelle Huppert, in one of her finest performances. Full Review

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