Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virginie Efira, Judith Magre, Christian Berkel, Jonas Bloquet, Alice Isazz, Vimala Pons, Raphaël Lenglet, Arthur Mazet, Lucas Priso, Hugo Conzelmann, Stéphane Bak.
French cinema has always been the most infuriating beast, some will argue that at times it could be seen as pretentious, a place in which art goes too far and the sophistication plays more of a part than the actual plot; to those that never see beyond the screen that is possibly an argument worth having and yet the many layers that come to the front to be counted go way beyond that initially encountered and certainly in the last decade at least the films have become powerful statements on today’s society.
The lost and the cynical are very much in command in Elle and it is to be celebrated as the genius of Paul Verhoeven plays with David Birke’s adaptation of Philippe Djian’s novel to the point where everything is so matter of fact, so straight forward that even the idea of histrionics are quite rightly seen as fodder for other genres
The story might be one in which the very sensitivities of human life are challenged, the spectre in some eyes of sex and power being employed in such a way that the eyes cannot help but avert themselves from the crime committed and yet the command and strength of its lead character as she is seen to be this immense force, dealing with a sickening act, both in her past and now in the present, are dealt with by reason and cynicism, this is no ordinary woman fighting for her life, she is the pinnacle of what women should look up to, a women who knows her own judgement and is not afraid of the world.
In this Isabelle Huppert is glorious, a fighter on screen as well as off and with the very talented Laurent Lafitte and Anne Consigny all leaving their indelible mark on the film, there is nothing to do but surrender to Mr. Verhoeven and the snarling caged animal he is unleashing.
Elle is a creation of absolute European stock, Paul Verhoeven’s critical eye and abiding dedication to cinema and the finest of French actors with a script that would not be out of place in a modern British Noir; Elle is dangerous, compelling, twisted and cruel but it is after all French Cinema at its very best, one of darkness and facing the unimaginable and hated with equality and one in which Isabelle Huppert truly deserves to be thought of as one of the most exceptional actors Europe has to offer.
Elle, its great cast or its brilliant Director are not afraid to go down a path where they might court controversy but it is one where the storm is nothing compared to the brilliance on screen.
Ian D. Hall