This is the perfect vehicle for Isabelle Huppert, the greatest living actor in cinema. Here she demonstrates a full range of subtle, mutli-faceted and intensely ambiguous emotions, one of her great roles where the viewer is left with a conflicted and complex portrait. We don't really know what she is. Verhoeven imbues a Chabrol-esque cat-and-mouse thriller with his own particularly trashy panache. Essential Huppert.
The blankest black comedy; modern dysfunctions & older urges. No Jacobean revenge here - too easy a route - instead a 'mind fuck' let alone rape fantasy that (as per the film) 'crushes' norms and expectations with sex abstracted from love into the unsafe territory of raw sensation. The power play is thrilling with control see-sawing with steely precision. Verhoeven's best to date; ditto Huppert. Black coffee indeed.
Weeks after viewing, this film still clatters around my head like an itchy scab that won't heal. The incomparable Huppert is the inscrutable, aberrant Michelle, who I can only describe as the antithetical woman. She has none of the expected traits of the postmodern woman except for sex, which makes her actions and reactions such an all-consuming paradox. It's this dissonance that both vexes and intrigues.
'Elle' was a complete cliché, mainly because of Isabelle Huppert's character and acting style. I'm really getting tired of seeing her play the same role over and over since 'La Pianiste': fucked up cold manipulative sexual fetishists. I would expect her to be capable of more nuances within that thematic realm. Also, Paul Verhoeven is really NOT a virtuoso of the genre as some might believe! Overrated.
Its that unsettling fine line between consensual sadomasochism and sexual assult in a twisted, unapologetic stockholm syndrome-y thriller. Just like the moral ambiguity of the plot, Huppert's poker face tells everything.
Slugger of a drama - Huppert is one of the greats of French cinema who elevates this strong Verhoeven film tackling the shock-subject of rape. Isabelle deserves an Oscar for a brave role and for her legacy as one of the true method performers who willingly breaks taboos through channeling many challenging roles.
"It's twisted," says Michele, proving that all scripts have at least one meta-comment. After a sleepless night scratching my head, I can only conclude that Verhoeven wanted his characters - the neighbour, his wife, the son, the best friend, and especially the sociopathic, ambiguous Michele - to react to events in a way that the majority of the audience would not, creating a deeply unsettling, disturbing experience.
Well, basic instincts don't change, do they? "Shame isn't a strong enough emotion to stop anyone from doing anything. Believe me." Huppert, but not Huppert alone, makes this hardly singularly ugly film un-unwatchable (she has a way of doing that, eg. The Piano Teacher), but I don't feel any less disgusted for that. Some kind of mission accomplished.