Elle (2016) Poster

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Provocative psychological thriller
rubenm12 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Director Paul Verhoeven is famous for his provocative films, often combining sex, violence and psychological power play. Actress Isabelle Huppert is famous for her demanding roles, often playing powerful women with an obsession for sex and/or violence.

Put the two together and you can guess what you get. Elle's lead character, Michèle, is a woman who owns a video game company, specializing in games filled with extreme sex and violence. She casually shares her bed with her best friend's husband. She masturbates watching the neighbour unloading the trunk of his car. Her father is a convicted serial killer. Oh, and she doesn't seem to mind getting raped.

At least, that's the impression after the very first scene. After having been attacked and violently raped, she doesn't call the police of even a friend, but a fast food restaurant, ordering something to eat.

The film explores not only Michèle's relationship with her rapist, whose identity is established after about two thirds of the film, but also the men and women in her immediate circle. They all have their problems and peculiarities, and Michèle seems to pull all their strings as a hard, cold woman, superbly mastering her feelings and emotions.

For the viewer, it takes some effort to understand all the different relationships, and even more to grasp Michèle's behaviour. The only explanation Verhoeven offers, is her troubled youth as the daughter of a serial killer. In my opinion, the film suffers from an overload of characters with psychological difficulties. There's a mother hiring a gigolo because she can't accept getting older, there's a son clinging to a dominating girlfriend, a neighbour with a wife obsessed with religion, an employee playing a dirty trick on Michèle, and so on. Personally, I found it a bit too much.

The one thing that stands out in this film, is Isabelle Huppert's acting. Any other actress could easily have made Michèle's character unbelievable. But Huppert's utter detachment from any form of sensitivity makes the part completely convincing.
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Michèle: Portrait of a seriously troubled woman
axapvov2 February 2018
Isabelle Huppert migh have signed a pact with the devil. She´s still incredibly sexy at over 60 years old and as unique as always. "Elle" it´s all about her (duh) and no other actress could have possibly made it. A classy production with moments of great tension but I find this to be a character study more than anything else. A woman and her circumstance: her family, her work, her friends and, of course, her sexuality. It might be controversial but it´s not cheap. She´s not an ordinary woman and her father and her mother both have an important role in the film as to know why. Everything else is plausible due to her condition, from her son´s character issues to her affairs and further. Nothing is taken lightly, every situation or decision is determined by her psychology.

Now, I´ve seen how it enrages a lot of people. I guess they´re not familiar with Huppert´s work. There´s, of course, "La pianiste" but I find "Ma mère" to be worse. She´s always had a taste for moral uncertainty and she´s never been afraid of playing with its limits. Verhoeven is similar and this is a clear highlight in his appalling filmography. I wonder what would happen if "The Clockwork Orange", for instance, was made today? I´m not a fan of it but it´s widely regarded as a classic. We shouldn´t forget these are movies, not real life. Violence or pshycopathy are still a part of the human condition, however unpleasant they might be. I´m unfortunately close enough to rape reality to assert my opinion. "Elle" isn´t overly serious and never tries to be more than it is: two entertaining hours of drama.
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A Convoluted, Yet Well-Executed Premise!
CalRhys22 May 2016
After seeing this film at Cannes, it left me with rather mixed emotions, and I continued thinking about it for quite some time after; so after much thought, I decided it was time to write a review of this new French new flick. 'Elle' is a thought-provoking thriller from the hands of Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven that is definitely not suitable for the younger audiences. Verhoeven has a tendency to venture down more explicit routes (think of 'Showgirls'), but this time took a psychological approach creating a film that will definitely leave you thinking.

Now, the plot can be rather convoluted. The film runs several plot lines alongside each other and at times, you can lose track of certain characters, but if you pay close enough attention, you'll fully appreciate the complex, yet original structure Verhoeven has created. The performances in the film are all fantastic, and the direction is magnificent (Verhoeven actually took to learning French as a new language so he could utilise an entire French crew), the cinematography and soundtrack both make great accompaniments, but I personally think the film's structure was the only downside to the film.

The subject matter is rather grim, revolving around sexual assault and the estranged relationship between the main character and her parents, but there are instances of humour that just give that little hint of lightheartedness to a relatively dark premise. All-in- all I would definitely recommend this film if you're a fan of dark thrillers along the lines of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' etc, but be prepared for a no-holds brazen thriller. Nonetheless, Verhoeven has made a sincere thriller that kept me thinking well after the credits had finished, so congratulations to him for that, and for undertaking the somewhat "risky" subject matter.
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lralbright126 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Elle has been making the rounds at film festivals since its premiere at Cannes this past year, with much acclaim and, in typical Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Showgirls) fashion, some controversy surrounding its content. It tells the story of Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), a successful business woman, who is raped by an unknown ski-masked assailant. Unfortunately, in today's world, this isn't something that's entirely shocking itself, but it's the way Verhoeven's Michele reacts to the rape that will unsettle viewers.

The film opens with a struggle that isn't seen. The noises that are being made, however, are unmistakable. When we catch a glimpse of the sight, we see Michele on the ground with her assailant dressed in black standing above her, he quickly leaves, Michele still lying on the ground stunned for a moment before getting up and doing everything a rape victim shouldn't do. First, she cleans up the crime scene and then gets into the bathtub with a glass of wine with an odd look that I couldn't discern the moment that I was viewing it, but as the movie went along, I figured it out.

Her look was that of pleasure.

Yes. This film goes there.

Michele doesn't tell her son when he asks about a bruise on her face. "Fell off my bike," she says as she continues about her evening as if nothing happened. It isn't until later, at dinner that she tells a group of people, including her ex-husband, that she 'supposes' she was raped.

Her odd behavior is given a backstory. Her father, Charles Leblanc, was a serial killer who killed a number of people in their town and it's even suggested that ten year old Michele may've participated in this horrific act.

As the film continues, a thread of dark comedy surfaces; Michele goes to the doctor to get an STD panel. "Are you concerned about a recent exposure? I can give you some PEP?"

"Nah. I'll just roll the dice."

She looks at a co-worker's outfit, similar to that of her assailant. She gives her co-worker that same look she had in the bathtub. "I like your outfit."

It's safe to say, this isn't a typical film about rape, and those who are sensitive to this topic probably should avoid it. It's slated to have an awards friendly November release date, most likely for Isabelle Huppert's fantastic performance, but I'm not sure how awards bodies are going to take to this. A French movie about rape from the point-of- view of a woman who enjoys it? How on earth does someone sell that?
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You may change the language but you won't change Paul Verhoeven
JPfanatic934 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It's an odd thing, but the press seems to almost unilaterally adore this latest film by Paul Verhoeven, with myself being an exclusion to that fact. Even though I love most of Paul Verhoeven's work - even going so far as to publicly consider the much maligned Showgirls a very fun film - I had a hard time appreciating this film. Even though I admit there's a number of things to appreciate about it.

First thing, it's a superb piece of acting by the lead, the fabulous French actress Isabelle Huppert. She delivers a grand performance as the protagonist, Michele, a powerful director of a video game company who one day unexpectedly finds herself the victim of a brutal rape by an unknown assailant. She effortlessly navigates the part of rape victim and dominant, matriarchal presence at her job and as head of her family of miscreants. Better yet, the dormant demons of her shady past awake to stir things up even more, which soon makes for an intense psychological game between herself and those around her. Nobody is a match for her, both in terms of character and in terms of acting. Sadly, the rest of the cast is nowhere near as exciting to watch and mostly consists of sleazy personas out to make her life more miserable. It's a shame less effort was put into making Michele's surroundings a bit more interesting, but with such a powerful performance as her own, it's hard to keep up.

Second, Verhoeven basically does what he has always done: not give a damn about cinematic conventions and do as he like without taking what many people would consider 'good taste' into account. His continuation of exploring the underbelly of man proves devoid of adhering to the usual norms of narrative progression. Whoever thinks the rape dictates the rest of Michele's actions is wrong, as she doesn't end up a victim of the act, but rather her environment becomes a victim of herself. There's no tear jerking drama here wherein the violated female must come to terms with the traumatic event, nor is there your typical Hollywood style thriller plot which sees the aggressor hunted down by a revenge driven survivor. Yes, Michele does take matters into her own hands and aims to find her rapist, but this detective story thread suddenly comes to a dead stop as the identity of the culprit is revealed earlier than expected, to unforeseen and rather incredulous results. Wherever you think the story is going, Verhoeven doesn't care about your expectations.

Such stubbornness I generally approve of, since there's enough predictable studio drivel going around already. Nevertheless, despite Verhoeven clearly putting his own stamp on Elle which makes it a rather unique final result, I still found it far from a satisfying movie. It's simply too rebellious for the sake of being rebellious. It's a strange and uncomfortable mix of a thriller, family drama and dark comedy, filled with wholly unsympathetic characters. It echoes Verhoeven's scandalous Dutch film Spetters, which saw the auteur heavily criticized and proved one of the prime reasons for him to switch from Holland to Hollywood (and a good choice that was!). However, that film was torn to shreds by critics, while 35 years later Elle is unanimously embraced. The times apparently have changed, but Verhoeven has not changed with them and continues to be an eternal provocateur. In the current political milieu, such an attitude is apparently rewarded. Just not by me. I appreciate Verhoevens refusal to change his style and stick to his (lack of) principles, but I much lament his cynicism. And though it seems the press doesn't share that perspective, I have a feeling many a regular audience member will agree with me upon seeing the strange shock that is Elle.
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The good old Paul
"Elle" means "She" - the whole movie is seen through the eyes of the character played by Isabelle Huppert, a woman being victim of an aggression in the first scene of the film.

From there you will probably be unable to predict the plot, as its structure doesn't follow the rules we've been used to. At one point during the screening I thought the movie would end soon but it went on and was still engaging. At first you might think it's just a thriller but the writing has more to offer and deploys in original ways.

Isabelle Huppert delivers a great performance playing a strong female character, something quite rare in movies.

The film can be quite shocking, but never gratuitous. Verhoeven's ability to balance a serious drama with his usual "funny" ways is thought provoking without being ponderous. This dynamic was always Verhoeven's strength, even in this kind of more "auteurish" work.

Don't await slick Hollywood style here, but a somewhat dark & gritty satire on human relationships.

Loved it, can't wait for Verhoeven's take on Jesus
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Shallow and Pretentious
t-de-groot14 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Incredibly overrated movie (On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 88% approval rating based on 117 reviews, with an average score of 8/10) While anticipating a movie like La Pianiste( with an amazing Huppert)this movie turned out to be the biggest movie disappointment of 2016 for me. Bad storytelling( just one example: Michèle leaves her son at the party, on arriving in the house she got raped( again...) and after a couple of minutes who turns out to be her saviour? Yes her son, a real Deus ex Machina....pffft..) The biggest flaw is the psychology and character building in this movie; behaviour of the main protagonist is like we are watching a drama from Pluto...erratic and impossible to empathise. Yes Michèle was traumatized is a child( in itself a grotesque story)but that explains very little about how she deals with the rape, with the people around her, etcetera. This movie was highly praised in Cannes and the world over, for me this is a case of The Emperor's New Clothes
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Unconventional story, powerful performance
ferguson-617 November 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. It's best not to pre-judge what to expect in a new Paul Verhoeven directed film. We haven't seen or heard much from him in the past decade (the underrated Black Book, 2006), but we know surprises and twists and entertainment will be part of his work given his track record of Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls. Factor in that he is now working with one of the best actresses on the planet in Isabelle Huppert, and we walk into the theatre with no assumptions but a high level of anticipation.

The phrase 'tour de force' is no exaggeration for Ms. Huppert's performance here. No time is provided for settling into one's seat as the opening scene stuns us with a brutal sexual attack by a masked intruder. Afterwards, the bloodied victim calmly cleans the house, soaks in a tub and orders takeout. This is our introduction to Michele (Huppert) and begins our two hour mission of trying to figure her out.

Is she the ultimate feminist? She is the co-owner (with her best friend Anna) of a video game company that specializes in highly stylized and violent fantasy games (no subtle irony in that). Is she demented? She fools around with the husbands of her best friend and neighbor. Is she simply off-center? She scolds her mother for wanting to marry a much younger man, and her son for living with his selfish girlfriend who has a new baby via another man. She is not a good friend, business partner, mother, daughter, wife or person. This is no sympathetic character, yet thanks to Ms. Huppert, we simply can't take our eyes off of her or stop wondering how she will handle the next situation (of which there are many).

Based on the novel "Oh …" by Phillipe Dijan, with a screenplay from David Birke (who has a similar theme in much of his work), the film spares us little from the daily life of Michele. We see her as a confident business person, a sexual being – whether peering through binoculars at a neighbor or trysting with a married man - and a somewhat devious and devilish person intent on revenge. It's not until later in the film that we learn the family history that has been the driving force behind her rebuilding her life while also being unable to escape the past.

Ms. Huppert is in most if not every scene. It's a powerful and rare performance that is complemented by some fine supporting actors: Anne Consigny as Anna (Michele's friend and business partner), Christian Berkel as Robert (Anna's husband and Michele's play toy), Charles Berling as Richard (Michele's ex-husband), Judith Magre as Michele's mom, Laurent Lafitte as Patrick (the neighbor), and Jonas Bloquet as Vincent (the dim bulb son). Michele has interactions with each of these characters … none better than the Christmas dinner party where all are in attendance.

Verhoeven's film can be viewed as a slightly sleazy guilty pleasure, or as a profile of a strong, independent woman with a flawed moral compass. It's a reminder that we never fully escape the shadow cast by our parents, and some pay a greater price than others. It's rumored that no major American actress would take on the role, which in the end, benefits the film greatly … no other actress could have provided what was needed (except perhaps Barbara Stanwyck, who died more than 25 years ago). Ms. Huppert's performance allows this to cross many genres, and it is undoubtedly the best of the year in this category: a comically mean rape-revenge psychological thriller centered on consent and desire. Should you doubt this, perhaps Michele's own words will convince: "Shame isn't a strong enough emotion to stop us from doing anything at all." It's a pleasure to meet you ma'am.
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Story is a missed opportunity
RyanNanni23 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Look, I'm not even going to engage the question of whether this movie is essentially misogynist or not. I'm going to take the film at face value. Because I actually enjoyed the first third of the movie immensely. Isabelle Huppert's performance is fantastic and compelling, the concept of a woman dealing with a violent rape by sitting back and methodically preparing to take her revenge, and the way she treads through the male world she lives in are all compelling ideas!

But the story is a train wreck! And not in an enjoyable way!

The first engine of the movie is Elle's mission to track down her rapist. Very compelling.

Then we get this backstory that her father was a mass murderer. Also interesting enough to keep me watching. But not tied in to the rest of the movie in anyway whatsoever. It almost seems random.

And then some very boring subplots about her whiney son and his obnoxious girlfriend, and some casual relationships with the other people in her life. No tension driving those subplots.

And then! *spoiler alert*

She discovers her rapist, it's the neighbor she has a crush on! Wow, interesting! The person she's been trying to track down this whole time! But then, she seemingly doesn't care at all! She lets him go, gets into a random car rack which he saves her from for some bizarre reason, she continues to hang out with him, he rapes her again but it's bizarre because the movie plays this like it's a bad thing but she also wants it maybe? Not clear. And then he tries to rape her again in the end which is totally undramatic at this point because she's totally given up on trying to stop him from raping her.

The last third of the movie lacks tension or any compelling conflict at all. This could've been a good movie. :(
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Worst movie I've seen this year (and I watched Sausage Party)
helena-dea-bala24 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is absolute rubbish. I think a lot of Americans just view French folk as aloof and a bit mysteriously sexy, and this movie panders to that sort of conception. That said, it forces actions on people that are totally nonsensical.

1. She gets raped, realizes that she enjoys the experience, and then proceeds to get raped and re-raped a bunch of times because that's apparently what happens when you're attracted to your rapist and the power play dynamic? WHAT?! This makes no sense.

2. Then, to get out of this little situation she's created, she has her emasculated son kill the rapist, under the guise that this will make him feel like a hero and will help him grow a pair. Also, his girlfriend with whom he has a child, also magically goes from being a total bitch to a somewhat tolerable human being. Right.

Am I the only person who is outraged by the fact that people like this movie? I mean, the fact that it's getting good ratings is making me question everything in my life. Do I have the right job? Am I married to the right person? Is my car actually green?

I don't know what's happening. Please help. And DON'T watch this impossibly stupid movie.
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If you have any self respect, stay away
bripenney0012 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As a rape victim, I was really looking forward to this film after reading the description and a few top reviews. Those are misleading. If the larger public saw this film rather than just critics and film snobs (myself included) there would be outrage. I'm not upset about including a rape scene. I'm not even upset about Michele's character reacting so calmly afterwards. This is actually common in rape victims, and sometimes it's important to show things like this to educate people on the experience of survivors of sexual assault. What upset me, was when the film turned about halfway through to Michele enjoying the rape and encouraging it. This is not a reaction any sexual assault victim I have ever known would have. Maybe a few do, but when you take on a subject as serious as rape in your film, I do think part of your responsibility is in educating people on what that experience is like to create more empathy. This film did not do that, and I cannot say enough how outraged I am that this film decided to sexualize rape. Great acting Isabelle, but this film should have never been made.
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Perfectly Cast Complex Character Study
gregsrants11 September 2016
From the late 1980's into the 1990's, Paul Veerhoven was one of the biggest names working behind the camera in Hollywood. Starting with 1987's Robocop and continuing through Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers, Veerhoven mastered the sex and violence ties that brought audiences out to his films in droves.

But 1995's Showgirls ended his run of good fortune. Considered by most to be one of the worst films of the 90's (it's not), Showgirls all but put Veerhoven in Guantanamo Hollywood prison. And since 2000, Veerhoven has directed but three films – Hollow Man, Black Book and Tricked.

With any fortune, Veerhoven will no longer take such a long sabbatical after his latest effort, Elle which was nominated for the Palme D'Or at Cannes and had its North American Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this past Friday.

Elle stars Isabelle Huppert as Michele, a corporate CEO of a small video-game design company who deals with the emotional effects of a rape that occurs before the screen even fades in with the open scene. When audiences do get more than the horrifying audio of the assault, we view Michele as she fights with a masked intruder on the floor of her home. Beaten and raped, Michele cleans up and continues with her life. A prior bad history with the police leaves her not wanting to report the crime and stoically she marches on with the rape but a blip on life's resume.

But as time slowly separates her from the initial attack, it is clear that the attacker is not yet finished with is prey. Michele begins to find her house violated again by the unknown assailant and text messages from the rapist only further the intrigue. But Michele is no victim. She fantasizes about another return visit from the attacker with a more favorable result. And through her emotions she remains consistent in behavior which comes to a shock to others when she reveals the details of the attack.

Making things more complex for Michelle is her circle of family and friends. A father doing time for being a serial murder, a mother who pays young studs for sex, a son who can't hold either a job or a girlfriend and her co-workers, some of which she is sexually active with, only complicate her delicate situation.

Although Elle might seem like a mystery thriller, it is more of a character driven drama than a 'can-you-guess-who's-behind-the-mask'. So much so that Veerhoven reveals the face behind the ski mask early in the second half of the film. The reveal is to both the audience and to Michelle and how she continues to explore events on her own terms is as fascinating as it is head-scratching.

Although Veerhoven has routinely had strong women roles in his films, nothing is on par with Huppert's Michelle. The film is carried by her strong and intoxicating performance and Huppert is remarkably able to keep us involved and rooting for a woman who is mean and calculating to all those associated with her path.

Events don't exactly zig and zag towards an ending but I doubt audiences will be able to stay ahead of the smart script in determining what might occur next to our protagonist.

Elle isn't perfect, but it is perfectly cast and executed. The story will leave most in the cold and it isn't a feel-good film even if everything does eventually work itself into a nicely bowed present before the end title card.
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Petty nihilism on parade
EdwardRMorrow445 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Don't believe the media hype! If moral and ethical decay coupled with a total lack of self awareness, set in a mindless world of self indulgence is what you crave - then this is the one for you. It plays like an inside view of the moral depravity of the Democrat and Republican parties. The cast is first rate and Huppert's performance is exquisite - if wasted. As the protagonist she is completely unlikable. The attacker is played as marginally more human than the attack victim. Every possible universally held value is destroyed. Worse - nothing in the movie makes much sense; the overwhelming improbability of the premise is laughable. I found myself chuckling partway through it. That may have been the Director's intent.
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An insult to women and extreme sado-masochism masquerading as art--some SPOILERS
maestro7PL31 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
If I could have given this film zero stars, I would. This film is very well-made, but that is only the veneer. Paul Verhoven has a bad habit of going over the top and reveling in extreme violence, gratuitous nudity, and pure shock, which I think he does to hide the fact that his scripts are not very good and the stories very inconsistent, as is the case here. In his latest perverted fantasy, the main character is repeatedly raped, and later in the film, it is revealed that she actually enjoys the experience. Some kind of message to be sending out to would-be rapists! If seeing a glamorous woman enjoying being raped is your idea of a good time, then this is the movie for you. For others, my advice is to STAY AWAY.
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Huppert lends poise to Verhoeven's world.
Ser_Stephen_Seaworth5 October 2016
Paul Verhoeven has always worn the mantle of provocateur with pride, from the alluringly pulp "Basic Instinct" to the scandalous stripper saga that was "Showgirls." Even when he dips his toe in genre fare, there's still nevertheless an undercurrent of erotic satire in them (remember the tri-boobed woman in "Total Recall"?). Even when Verhoeven plays it straight, like in the brilliant "Black Book", his films nevertheless drip with sensuality. His latest film, however, takes a more measured but by no means less lacerating tack.

At first glance, "Elle" is so cold-blooded it could almost be mistaken for a Michael Haneke film, especially as it features Haneke's muse, the glacially poised Isabelle Huppert, at its center. Certainly, "Elle" kicks right off in a suitably brutal manner one would typically see from Haneke: namely, the savage rape of its primary character in her own home by a masked intruder. Shades of "Funny Games" certainly are evident here, but Verhoeven nevertheless keeps his own brand of reptilian energy alive in the film. Huppert's Michèle immediately gets back into her daily routine: overseeing the newest release from her video-game company, dealing with the drama of her son's upcoming fatherhood with a girl Michèle cannot stand, and seeing her mother tentatively flirting with a new marriage while her father, a convicted murderer, languishes in prison. With everything on Michèle's plate, a little sexual assault is merely seasoning.

The shocking opening scene will certainly have audiences squirming, and indeed Verhoeven revisits it a couple of times throughout the film as Michèle mulls over the event, with variations here and there as she imagines how she could have defended herself—or provoked him further. And despite her desire to move on from the event, it continues to linger, especially as her assailant sends her threatening texts that he may not be done with her. But rather than go to the police, Michèle finds herself almost being an encouraging presence to her assailant, as though she craves the demeaning, degrading act to which she was subjected.

It is certainly a problematic viewpoint for any film to have: that of a rape victim desiring to return to the act itself. But Verhoeven's lurid sensibility strangely doesn't hit the exploitative level that he typically sets out to achieve. While the story does juggle its fair share of melodramatic subplots (swapping out an affair for a cuckolding here while touching on a dark childhood there), it mostly focuses on playing up the stalker cat-and- mouse theme. Michèle goes the "Brave One" route at first: buying (and using) mace, going to a gun range. But as all of her life's little foibles start to coalesce all at once, it's almost as though she seeks the grim simplicity of simply being a "victim."

I've always found Huppert to be a technically masterful but nevertheless somewhat clinical actress, one whose austerity can sometimes keep us at arm's length when she should instead be drawing us closer, deeper. I find that can be a bit of a detriment to some of her performances, but "Elle" relies on that puritanical presence, and her ascetic approach to her portrayal of Michèle is largely what makes the film work in the first place. She navigates the hectic labyrinth of her life like a ship cutting through thick fog, and even as Verhoeven puts his thumb on the tongue-in-cheek scales, she never once feels like she's in on the joke. Though Huppert was not Verhoeven's first choice (he shopped the script to the likes of Marion Cotillard and Carice van Houten beforehand), she nevertheless feels like the right one. Her flinty nature provides the dour center the film requires.

"Elle" does feel a bit bloated in his second half, and I honestly could've done with most of its tangential subplots being axed. Verhoeven's films generally outstay their welcome in terms of runtime, and Ellecomes dangerously close to that, but Huppert's compelling performance and Verhoeven's approach to the material will keep audiences in their seats, albeit forever squirming.
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Weird and Bizarre
claudio_carvalho18 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The wealthy entrepreneur Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is the owner of a video game company that she runs with her best friend Anna (Anne Consigny). She is divorced from Richard Leblanc (Charles Berling) and has a love affair with Anna's husband Robert (Christian Berkel). Her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) lives with his girlfriend Josie (Alice Isaaz) that is pregnant. Her mother Irène Leblanc (Judith Magre) tries to convince Michèle to visit her father that is in prison for a life sentence after killing twenty-seven neighbors in an outbreak. One day, Michèle is raped by a stranger wearing ski mask. She buys pepper spray and an ax for self-protection while she seeks out the attacker. She also befriends her next door neighbors Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) and Rebecca (Virginie Efira) and invites them to a Christmas party at her home. When the stranger breaks in her house again, Michèle subdues him and has a surprise. Who might be the rapist?

"Elle" is a weird and bizarre film directed by Paul Verhoeven. Despite the great performance of Isabelle Huppert, the story is pointless and the movie is overrated in IMDb. Michèle Leblanc is a tough, ruthless, cruel and disloyal woman that betrays her best friend having a love affair with her husband. But the annoying plot goes nowhere and is totally disappointing. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil): No Available
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A shameful piece of trash
ptone-9320724 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I wish I could give this film no stars. It is no wonder that most female actors turned this part down. The fact that Huppert reportedly actually sought out to play this role outs her as a disgrace to women and thinking men everywhere. I had my doubts about watching this film after discovering that Verhoeven directed it. He has a history of making films that objectify women and show blatant misogynistic tendencies. Apologists for him and his film, who call him "provocative", should also be ashamed. Actually, everyone involved in this production should be castigated.

The problems don't end with a premise that actually promotes rape. Characters don't act like realistic human beings; they seem to be puppets acting out Verhoeven's sick fantasies. But the lack of realism doesn't end with behavior, it extends to the lack of physical evidence of a brutal attack on a woman; no bruises, cuts, etc. after showing a man punch and slap a woman repeatedly.

Without explanation, after extremely nasty behavior between multiple pairs of characters, in later scenes they are together as if nothing had happened. This is really, really terrible filmmaking. It should be avoided at all costs.
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There is porn with more redeeming social value
ixtar17 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
At times perverse and absurd, and usually both at the same time. Elle is anchored by a fabulous Isabel Huppert, but she is the only good in the film. Most of the characters are of various levels of bad character; ranging from the faux nobility, naivete and idiocy of the main character's son, to her mass murdering father. Not surprisingly, the more religious the character, the worse a person they are portrayed as being (the opposite of what generally occurs in the real world, but this seems to be a film motivated by hatred rather than reality). Several hatreds actually. Besides religion, there is the hatred of women and of men. The plot can be summarized as: Woman is raped, but she likes it, so she continues her affair/multiple rapes until she gets tired of lying and sneaking around so she arranges to have her married rapist/lover killed. Pathetic waste of my time, and the talent of all who made it.
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Severely unfocused and underwhelmingly absurd
smoky_circles13 February 2017
If this movie was a person I think it would be diagnosed with having severe ADD and dissociative personality disorder.

The movie is so unfocused that every third scene is the climax of a totally different movie. It feels like a soap opera -- now this person gets raped, now they cheat, now that one dies, now they kiss, now this one's true nature is revealed, and on and on. And all through this severe lack of focus none of the characters have normal emotional reactions to anything, which is what's supposed to make this movie so amazingly absurdly clever but actually just makes it shallow and annoying. And then back to point one -- since no one really feels much of anything, it's very easy to change from subject to subject until we end up with this silly mess.

There are some good parts. The main character does make you root for her, since she is a typical cool and "strong" female character -- which, in movies, means someone who is devoid of actual feeling and sensitivity. She's got sass and does what ever she wants with little regard for others, except of course when she's coolly letting herself be used and harmed for men's purposes, because of course that adds interest to her character and makes it provocative, gasp. There's the soap-opera intrigue that will keep you watching for some cheap thrills, twists and turns and red herrings and what not. And it is a overall a "pretty" movie with attractive people and places.

But at the end of this movie, as with any soap, one feels cheated and wasteful of time. Skip it.
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Huppert and Verhoeven at Peak of Perversity in ELLE --
alexdeleonfilm29 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
ELLE was viewed at the recent 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It's been a while since we have seen the work of Dutchman Paul Verhoeven, now 77, the author of Basic Instinct and Total Recall. His last film, Black Book (Zwarte Boek 2006) was a return home to The Netherlands after a 20 year hiatus in Hollywood. Zwarte Boek, a WWII Jewish resistance thriller starring Carice van Houten was recognized in Holland not only as a glorious homecoming for Verhoeven but was also voted The Best Dutch Film of ALL Time in a poll of the Dutch public taken in 2008.

The psychological thriller ELLE is Verhoeven's first film in French and stars the best French actress in captivity by a country mile, Isabelle Huppert, now a hard-to-believe age 63. In this one she plays a still very sexually desirable middle aged redhead, Michèle Leblanc, the hard-as-nails boss of a Major Video Games enterprise, a fiercely independent single women who plays the field and gets violently raped in the very first scene of the film by a fully masked intruder in black body rubber who breaks into her well appointed apartment and leaves her battered, panting, and nearly senseless on the floor, after getting his rocks off (and hers as well!) ... This event is witnessed only by Michele's unperturbed pet cat, an important side player in this study of extreme perversion á deux.

The theme of sexual assault by an unknown assailant is also at the center of another Cannes competition film, the Iranian entry "Forushande" (The Salesman) but Verhoeven's treatment is infinitely more profound and far more gripping. No comparison -- different league altogether cinematically speaking.

As for Isabelle Huppert this woman is in a class by herself as an actress -- something like Bette Davis way back in the Good Old golden Hollywood Days. Too bad Davis isn't around today to see Isabelle Huppert carrying on with the same kind of fearless screen magic ~ Both actresses willing to accept distasteful roles no other actress would dare to for fear of "damaging their image" -- and turning such roles into singular transcendent instances of screen interpretation. One thinks of Davis in "Whatever happened to Baby Jane" or Huppert in half a dozen other roles in which she somehow turned female psychotics into appealing figures; A woman who slowly poisons her husband in Chabrol's "Merci pour le chocolat", "La Cérémonie" in which Huppert, a very whacky post office employee incites a shy illiterate maid to murder the entire family she works for ... or "Ma Mère" in which Huppert plays a polymorphous bi-sexual nymphomaniac who eventually seduces her own timorous son in a closing incestual death embrace -- All roles no other actress would touch with a ten foot pole or be able to interpret with such verve that audiences are awed and fascinated -- and ultimately entertained.

Working with basically instinctual director Verhoeven Huppert has practically outdone herself if such is possible. The character that she brings to life in this film adaptation of a currently best selling novel ("Oh" by Philippe Djian) is an upper class business woman who, for whatever reasons of her own, gets her sexual jollies by being violently battered and raped -- in this case by the masked sadist who lives next door, a seemingly mild mannered gentleman in everyday life, married to a sincere deeply religious young woman. At the same time she needs to get revenge on the rapist for feeding her deep seated pathological masochism and paradoxically befriends his blithely unsuspecting wife.

Verhoeven really goes to town with this material creating a monstrously entertaining picture of the darkest facets of upper class perversity lurking just under the surface of polished bourgeois propriety. This treatment of an extremely violent S&M relationship that is seemingly consensual -- or is it -- between sophisticated adults which will eventually lead to manslaughter, is presented with no excursions into psychoanalytic apologetics -- take it or leave it -- as Michele takes her punishment and ultimately her revenge.

Huppert has worked with other cunningly perverse directors before like Chabrol and Breillat, but teaming up with Paul Verhoeven who is clearly the master of molding titillation, shock, intrigue, and entertainment into a single cohesive package, the French superstar actress has scaled a new dazzling peak.

The title ELLE may seduce some into thinking this is a film about high fashion (which in a way it is!) but those with soft stomachs beware -- this is a series of shock waves that could shiver the timbers of even the most blasé intellectuals or aloofly critical critics. Please bear in mind that ELLE is a four letter word!
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wittily provocative, unconventionally allegoric and intoxicatingly irresistible
lasttimeisaw11 October 2016
Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's long-delayed comeback after BLACK BOOK (2006), a vastly engaging Nazi-melodrama made in his motherland, which catapults its heroine Carice van Houten into stardom and to Hollywood as well. And ELLE, is his first French film which debuted earlier in this year's Cannes, headlined by an impeccably charismatic Isabelle Huppert.

Elle refers to Michèle LeBlanc (Huppert), a middle-aged divorcée, who is the head of a video-game company in Paris (an interesting career choice), leads a quite complacent life regardless of some dissonances, like her ex Richard (Berling), with whom she remains an amiable rapport, is dating a new graduate student Hélène (Pons) which raises her eyebrows mixed with a small dosage of jealousy; Josie (Isaaz), the insolent girlfriend of their unambitious son Vincent (Bloquet), is a vitriolic nuisance, now that she is pregnant, they are dependent on Michèle to pay the rent of a new apartment; then her botox-addicted mother Irène (Magre, so sprightly in her age, almost 90), is too smitten with her toy boy Ralph (Lenglet) to be ethical; plus that she is having an affair with Robert (Berkel), the husband of her best friend and colleague Anna (Consigny), just as corny as that.

But a horrific accident will disrupt the status quo, she is raped by a masked intruder in her own apartment, and with her own reason of not reporting the case to the police (a more horrific back story here), she carries on as if nothing happens apart from changing the locks and arming herself with a bottle of pepper spray. But the mysterious rapist doesn't leave her in peace, and she suspects that it is a personal reprisal due to some workplace disagreement, so she bribes a young employer to investigate her suspect. Meanwhile, she is sexually attracted to her neighbor Patrick (Lafitte), an urbane bank broker who lives across the street with his God-fearing wife Rebecca (Efira), Verhoeven and screenwriter David Birke pull no punches to foreground Michèle's sexual urges. An honest take of masturbation with the aid of a pair of binoculars bespeaks the unflinching audacity of the film's stance: we are all libido-driven creatures, even it will subject us to very perilous situations, we still cannot resist the delectable temptation.

After the plot disclosing the identity of the rapist, the guessing game is over but the story veers into a more stimulating concept of why the act repeatedly happens and how far one would go to fully embrace the exploration of one's sexuality (to the extent of sadomasochism and role-playing), on the latter regard, the film is absolutely female-empowering, while the man is basely submitted to his primal desire, it is the woman who dares to challenge the perversity, question the insanity and take the initiative to navigate the course, which cannily imbues the preordained upshot with a tinge of ambiguity (is it a knowing plan of her or an unfortunate happenstance, which makes audience wonder).

The synopsis of the story might sound morbid, but Verhoeven certainly shows his level- headedness to temper it with a comedic bent, mostly owing to Huppert's superb tour-de-force, she is fantastic in her poker-face frivolousness when saddled with the dead-serious matters, and unapologetically affective in the scenes where she is alone in the frame, submerging in her own thoughts and projecting enigmatic gazes, Michèle is a a hard case to crack, so proactive to seize the fate in her own hands, refuses to be sentimental or sympathetic. It goes without saying that Verhoeven has no intention of eliciting compassion or approval from viewers to justify Michèle's erratic behaviour, but admiration of her own unique existence, independent, honest and indestructible. A variegated supporting ensemble adorns and surrounds a sparkling Huppert, notable mentions to Laurent Lafitte, who legitimately balances on a very darker character between deception and candor, delves into the warring battle of a tortured soul and Anne Consigny, who is a refreshing, tendresse-radiating foil contrasting a relentlessly unfathomable Huppert.

Love thy neighbors, but don't go overboard, ELLE is wittily provocative, unconventionally allegoric and intoxicatingly irresistible. Also the film has been selected as French candidate of BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE PICTURES, so Ms. Huppert is officially in contention for the increasingly chock-a-block Oscar race ahead, the plot deliciously thickens….
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Sick man's fantasy being filmed
d-vanderleer3 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Such an unpleasant movie to watch. I had the idea that I was looking at a big sick man's fantasy. A woman who is abused and raped by everybody, even fantasy figures! And kind of likes it?? Or is used to it, so has sick fantasies herself because of bad experiences? Is that why she is interested in her rapist and starts some kind of sick relationship with him when she finds out who it is? It was not even a surprise who the rapist is. What else could be the intension of this story, as there is no story? I really don't know, but I would not recommend anybody, especially not women (I never thought I would ever see this about anything!) to waste any money on this movie.
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Razorsharp & hilarious
PalmerEldritch66630 June 2016
Saw this great little comedy of manners, cleverly disguised as a thriller/whodunnit. The first image of the coldly distant, observing cat puts the spectator in the right frame of mind. A very clever script that makes every scene count, peak and slice away. A brilliant mise-en-scene that refuses to heighten the emotions or prettify. Isabelle Huppert absolutely shines, balancing all the minute emotional ticks in every scene, perfectly in control. She leads an ensemble of actors that play the diverse characters/antagonists to perfection. The story is actually all subtext, the main plot only used to connect all the dots and leading us by the nose to the bigger picture. The movie is marvelously playful, refusing to be dramatic, cute or opt for an easy way out. At the same time everything is done with great style and measured, cooked to perfection. Curiously i felt like i was about the only person in the audience who was chuckling along with every scene, maybe my dark sense of humor or feeling the unmistakably Verhoeven tone more acute with every movie of this great director i get to see. What else - a great score by Anne Dudley and Said Ben Said is getting to be my favorite producer !!! And now quite curious to read the source novel.
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Awful and shocking
conannz28 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I have been a film fan for 40+ years now. There are very few films that shock me as much as this one. I have no doubt the director is trying to be provocative but in my opinion he has crossed too many lines. I gave this film a 1 but only because I can't give it a zero.

Isabelle Huppert in the lead performs what is like a 1 woman show. We never really feel like we know her. She has two standard expressions which she uses a lot in this movie. The first one is a kind of puzzled glance and the second is when she is answering her dammed phone again. Actually the phone should get its own credit as the second most active character.

She even manages to shock a room full of bro gamers with her games direction at one point. The director can argue it is all satire but I think he is wrong.

I saw this at a film festival and while festivals take chances I thought this was really a chance too far. I would have liked some trigger warnings. As it was I didn't manage to watch the full movie which is 2 hrs 10 minutes. It may be that the last 15 mins of the movie makes up for some of the earlier scenes but I don't think they could.

What the synopsis refers to as "attacked in her home" is a brutal rape by a man in a ski mask. That was when I first wanted to walk out on the film. That is replayed and repeated later on and echoed in a disturbing animation.

There are a few moments of very black, dark humour but not enough to make this film watchable. I couldn't stop shaking for an hour after seeing this. Rape is not something that should be used to entertain audiences in my view. I am profoundly disappointed that this film is getting any attention.

Later I found out the director had trouble getting a U.S actor to play the lead role. No doubt their agents all advised them that this film is borderline hate crime in the making and they should stay away.
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Verhoeven forever
searchanddestroy-128 May 2016
No, folks, Paul Verhoeven has not changed, not at all, and I doubt if he will in the future. He has never made any French feature before this one, but if I had seen this movie without knowing the director's name, I would have recognized him after only forty five minutes. And if you remove all the provocative sequences, you have the feeling to watch a Claude Chabrol's film, and not only because of Isabelle Huppert's presence. This film looks like a mix up between Verhoeven, Hitchcock and Chabrol, especially concerning the bourgeois families criticism...Verhoeven still loves provoking, shocking the audiences. The screenplay is not made with a strong suspense but despite that, you are glued to this movie. No suspense here, except concerning the rapist identity. But once you know him, you guess that the movie will finish, but it continues, and no, you are not bored. A real curiosity. Isabelle has a way of playing with her face, an expression that only her has. Especially when she says to some one that she has no opinion or something like that. Only her reacts this way.
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