depressing truth is a film like this can no longer get produced in America,
because there is no longer popular support for free expression that holds the
potential to offend. Paul Verhoeven tried, but no American actress of any prominence
would touch the diva-ready lead role with a fifty-foot pole. Instead, he fell
back on plan B: filming in France with the great Isabelle Huppert. It is
probably only a matter of time before the censorious, censoring social justice
warriors justify Hollywood’s fears by forcing the film out of general
circulation. Honestly, anyone interested in Verhoeven’s Elle (trailer
the Dutch filmmaker’s first French-language production, should plan to see it
as soon as possible, after it opens tomorrow in New York.
heed, there is a lot of tough stuff in Elle.
One night, workaholic Michelle LeBlanc is raped inside her tony Parisian
townhouse. There is no mistaking the violence of her attack, but it also seems
strangely person. Having highly compelling reasons to distrust the police, LeBlanc
coolly and systematically increases her personal security, so that when her
assailant returns, it is more of a fair fight, but the end result remains the
sheer force of will, LeBlanc continues going about her daily business, dealing
with development issues at the video game company she co-founded (its specialty
is sexual violent fantasy games) and breaking off her affair with her business partner’s
husband. He will be one of several potential suspects who hover around LeBlanc,
sometimes giving the film the vibe of the ultra-provocative Agatha Christie
mystery she never dreamed of writing. However, as LeBlanc conducts her own
private inquiry, she starts openly inviting further encounters with her
attacker, which is clearly intended to make us wonder how willing a participant
she was, even from the brutal beginning.
is important to note Verhoeven is not suggesting all victims have ambivalent feelings
regarding their attackers. That simply may or may not be the decidedly extreme case
for LeBlanc. However, that distinction is sure to be lost on the professionally
offended. Once the SJW set understands the film presents rape in a murky and
ambiguous manner, they are sure to demand it be censored for all mature adults.
is a shame, because despite its admittedly lurid inclinations, Elle is an all too rare example of bold,
risk-taking filmmaking. Verhoeven really goes for broke and the results are
always fascinating, even when they get messy, credibility-challenged, and
course, it is immediately apparent this film could only be made with Huppert.
Physically, she is deceptively slight, but her forceful, caustic presence
absolutely commands the screen. In many respects, her character is
extraordinarily unsympathetic, yet she holds us utterly riveted. Oddly, one
could argue this is a women’s film, because the only supporting player who can
match her to any extent is Anne Consigny as Anna, her sexually ambiguous friend
sometimes falls flat on its face, but there is
so much rich text, sub-text, and meta-text, it demands serious analysis. As a sensationalistic
thriller, it is also surprisingly adept, but that has always been Verhoeven’s
specialty. This is a film that should inspire debates for years to come, but
one fears they will be choked off by the intolerantly hyper-sensitive.
Recommended for fully informed, open-minded Huppert and Verhoeven fans, Elle opens tomorrow (11/11) in New York,
at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: French Cinema, Isabelle Huppert, Paul Verhoeven