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 disgusting for that. Some kind of mission accomplished.
Essential. The transgressive work of both star and director has culminated in this savage, fascinating and controversial work that provides one of the most brutal yet intelligent films to come along in some time. Huppert is simply brilliant capturing a multi-faceted character full of contradictions and complexities. David Birke's scripting marries perfect with Verhoeven's direction. One of the year's finest.
Compelling to watch, Elle showcases Verhoeven's killer filmmaking instincts, which found in the magnificent Huppert the perfect match. Still, the film is plagued by too many happenings, an odd tone and a lack of finesse. Had it been more focused, and this could have been a masterpiece.