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.Written by
Second Verhoeven movie to feature the Iggy Pop song 'Lust for life', first one being 'Spetters' (1980). See more »
Richard bangs Michèle's head repeatedly against a concrete wall and hits her in the face with powerful punches. Yet Michèle never loses consciousness, doesn't sustain any bone fractures and gets even away without so much as a swollen eyelid. See more »
An almost awful & lurid film that exploits the female sex; Verhoeven a poor man's Brian De Palma
As the header title notes, the director Paul Verhoeven is indeed a pale imitation of Brian De Palma.
I saw this movie at the art-house where it was the only one film that plays anywhere where I reside at this time of writing, in a second-run circuit.
Needless to say, despite my intrigue with the great French actress Isabelle Huppert, this movie is patently ludicrous -- so absurd that it demands the suspension of disbelief with some confusion as to the female psyche, as imagined from the male perspective as the armchair psychologist.
I am not a feminist or a "white knight." Far from it.
However, besides the risible and infuriatingly frustrating absurdity of the plot twists, this movie is unbelievably lurid with exploitation, that is demeaning toward the female sex.
Even for the aforementioned actress, who has to be the bravest actress in this world, who is willing to take on any edgy film project that pushes the envelope, so to speak.
Anecdotally, I saw The Piano Teacher at the same art-house venue, starring the same lead actress, exactly 15 years ago. Which is an incredible coincidence.
Unlike "Elle," The Piano Teacher is far more nuanced with Michael Haneke's clinical directing style, slow-burn pacing, and Ms. Huppert's astonishing portrayal of a tormented and psychosexually twisted character.
In my humble opinion, Huppert's role in The Piano Teacher is one of the best performances ever captured by the actress; the other (equally and non-manipulative) astoundingly superlative performances being the fellow French actress Marion Cotillard for "La Vie En Rose" and Bjork's one-off-only lead acting in the poignant "Dancer in the Dark."
But "Elle" pushes the envelope not only too far, but also shreds the envelope to the extreme edge, outside of viscerally obscene hard-core pornography.
The MPAA is wrong to have given this movie a mere R rating. It should be NC-17, period.
"Elle" doesn't make any sense whatsoever, that confound me as to the point of the plot and subplots. It's a rather vacuous commentary on the female psyche, and the sheer ludicrous elements of the entire plot leading to the bizarre "happy" ending left me flabbergasted with frustration and disbelief, because this movie demands that I leave my brain at the door in terms of excessive suspension of disbelief.
Paul Verhoeven has proved himself to be the poor man's Brian De Palma, the latter who, at least, knows how to pull off the crazy plot twists and intrigues without coming off laughably absurd, until recently in the last two decades, when De Palma simply went off the deep end, not unlike Lars von Trier in the last decade.
"Elle" is simply "Basic Instinct" in reverse, and still as ludicrous as that infamous 1992 erotic thriller with plot holes and equally absurd demand for suspension of disbelief that infers puerile male chauvinist fantasy.
This said, Isabelle Huppert is, as I reiterate, the bravest actress. I doubt that she will an Oscar for Best Actress (she had won Golden Globe Best Actress award last month), simply because the Academy members, in particular elderly and perhaps more prudish, will be so offended and outraged by the risqué content and absurd plotting in "Elle" that they walk out in droves midway or turn off DVD to eject in palpable anger, given that this movie is one of the most provocative ever made to date.
That this movie made me cringe with horror -- and The Piano Teacher barely made me wince, being hypnotized by the great and magnificent Isabelle Huppert's performance -- especially with grotesque sexual content (not just rape acts but also involving other elements that are just as morally offensive) is quite an accomplishment.
And I braved through Gaspar Noe's brutal and nasty films (I have not seen Nicolas Refn's films, especially "Only God Forgives" and "Neon Demon" that are said to have prompted walkouts).
Ergo, "Elle" certainly takes the cake as the most edgy movie released in recent memory, outside the typically pretentious and over-edgy film festivals like Sundance, Telluride, Cannes and Toronto.
Paul Verhoeven should be rightly called a hack, because he could not cease to direct the latest films laden with inane plots and perfectly ludicrous premises, as if he dares the audience to suspend disbelief by forcing us to leave the brain at the door, to be insulted and mocked for daring to question the parallel world of ruthless reality and plausible fiction.
Verhoeven apparently hates the audience enough to mock us, and "Elle" is not an exception that belies his utter cynicism toward humanity in terms of values or the lack thereof.
This "film" is borderline rubbish that thieved my ten dollars -- I seldom go to the movies -- save for Isabelle Huppert's courageous and competent performance, that no sane film actress in Hollywood and London will agree to by taking on the lead role that is perverse, dreadful and exploitative.
I will be genuinely shocked if Ms. Huppert wins the Oscar for Best Actress, defying the odds given that "Elle" is the most infuriatingly ridiculous and deliberately provocative movie in recent years.
* 1/2 out of four
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