You might be thinking: why would I go see this weird French movie when I can just stay home and enjoy a nice evening of The Crown on Netflix? Well, one reason is it’s quite possibly one of the best movies of the year. Another reason is because it’s dark, twisted, very funny at times, and directed by the one and only Paul Verhoeven.
If you don’t know Verhoeven, stop what you’re doing right now, pop into your boss’ office and take some sick days immediately. You’ll need them to get through all his movies. Verhoeven’s career is fascinating, he’s been praised, he’s been shunned (anyone remember Showgirls?) and one day he’ll surely be regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever walk this earth. He’s a smart director (something that’s become quite a rarity) and even if he takes on what seems like a commercial project like Robocop or Starship Troopers (a deeply misunderstood film), he manages to turn it into a very intelligent film.
Comparing his version of the Robocop to the remake, you can immediately notice his directing talent. A remake of Starship Troopers is in the works as well, penned by the duo behind the Baywatch reboot...let’s just say we don’t have high hopes for that one. For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t seem to understand that you need more than just money and special effects to make good movies. You need filmmakers, with a heart and a brain. If that happens to make Verhoeven or John Carpenter rich in the process, we don’t mind in the least.
In addition to Verhoeven’s excellent directing, Elle's script need also be acknowledged. Adapted from Philippe Djian’s novel “Oh”, and penned by David Birke in close collaboration with Verhoeven, the story takes us through a twisted tale of rape and revenge, a popular subgenre of exploitation and grindhouse films. The film opens with Michèle’s rape (played masterfully by Isabelle Huppert, a strong Oscar contender this year) and then just keeps toying with your expectations, never going quite where you expect it to. Instead, it twists and turns. It is surprisingly full of unexpected humor, and at other times is chilling, but never depressing. Elle becomes a modern feminist pamphlet, where the main character isn’t the seminal virgin you’d expect. She’s a real woman, with flaws and qualities, sometimes strong and sometimes not.
Elle, like fine wine, will likely prove to get better with age and is a film sure to be discovered time and time again throughout the years. It’s a ballsy choice from France to pick it as its Oscar submission, and while it may not go on to win it’ll surely be remembered.
Hopefully you’ve understood by now that if you love film, no matter what the subject matter, Elle is definitely one you should check out immediately. The good news is that it just opened in the US, and if it’s not playing at a theater near you, you can already pick up a copy of it on Bluray on the French Amazon site.
Watch the trailer here in case we haven’t swayed you already.