Tuesday 10 January 2017

Elle ... Huppert carries sexually-charged film

ISABELLE Huppert's performance is a tour de force in Dutch director Paul Verhoeven's disturbing and yet engrossing French film Elle (She). Watching Huppert navigate elite French society, dealing with people's negative reaction to her, and gaining the upper hand in her sexual liaisons is worth your admission ticket.
   Huppert, 63, won the best performance by an actress in a film (drama) at the Golden Globes on Jan 8 for her role in Elle. She casts a spell on you from the first to the last scene. I watched the film twice on consecutive days and was enthralled by her performance.
  The late film critic Roger Ebert says Huppert often plays repressed, closed-off and sexually alert women. "Many of her roles involve women it is not safe to scorn."
   In Elle, Huppert plays Michèle Leblanc, 49, the co-owner and founder of a video game design firm that entertains people's rape and violent fantasies. She wants the blood that oozes from an orc attacking a nubile woman to feel warm. This comes days after she has been raped at her opulent home in which she lives alone in Paris.
   The rape scene opening the film is abrupt and shocking. Viewers hear loud grunts, as if they're uttered in the throes of passionate lovemaking, but will recoil at the sight of Michèle on the floor being slapped hard in the face by a ski mask-wearing attacker.
    What is even more surprising is her nonchalance after the attack. She cleans up the broken glass,
Isabelle Huppert flirts with handsome rich neighbour
Laurent Lafitte in 'Elle'.
dumps her blouse and takes a bath, noticing a splotch of red blood that rises to the surface of the bubbles. She then orders takeaway food, asking what's a holiday roll.
   She doesn't report the rape to the police, considering her experience with them. Her Christmas dinner table is filled with a menagerie of titillating characters, but some may find them too much to absorb.
    Her elderly mother, Irène (Judith Magre), encourages her to visit her jailbird father, 76, who killed 23 people 39 years ago when she was 10. A parole hearing rekindles people's disdain for her and her mum. The mother lives with a toyboy.
   * Her penniless author ex-husband is dating a nubile graduate student-cum-yoga instructor.
   * Her 20-something son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) is an ex-weed dealer now doting on his "psycho" and "lunatic" heavily-pregnant girlfriend Josie (Alice Isaaz).
   * Her handsome broker neighbour Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) and his blonde staunchly Catholic wife Rebecca (Virginie Efira), and
  * Her business partner Anna (Anne Consigny) and her husband Robert (Christian Berkel), with whom she's been having an affair for about eight months.
   If the rape is not traumatic enough, the rapist then taunts her with demeaning messages: "I found
Huppert checks out an employee.
you tight (etroitee)." It's not mentioned how he got her phone number.
   A hack at her office leads to someone attaching her face to the victim in the violent rape fantasy video game, and when she finds out who did it, her response is even more surprising.
   A lesser woman would have been crushed under the weight of these problems, but Michèle thrives in these situations.
   She has time to visit her ex-husband's new squeeze and also visit an apartment eyed by her son and his girlfriend. She has time to get in shooting practice, visit a store to get pepper spray and counsel her mum about shacking up with her toyboy.
  Where she gets the energy and mental fortitude to go through her day is beyond my imagination.
 (Spoilers ahead)
  Her dalliance with the texting rapist is particularly interesting.
   After she discovers his identity, she goes back to him. She lies down without a fight, but he can't get into the mood because he didn't overpower her with force.
    Her consent for him to rape her has taken away his desire to commit the crime. So she slaps him to
She has an axe to grind.
compel him to do the deed.
  Verhoeven, the director of sex-laced films such as Basic Instinct, could be saying that men desire to inflict fear on women through violence, and that receiving consent takes the fun out of it.
  Another question viewers may have is Michèle's reasons for doing it. It could be because she was linked to her mass-murderer father since the age of 10. It could also be because her ex-husband had beaten her.
   Viewers won't take their eyes away from the glimmering Huppert. Her wide-eyed innocence and milky skin, coupled with her strong attitude and willingness to cross sexual boundaries, make Elle a film that will stir up uncomfortable thoughts in you.

4 out of 5 stars







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