Title: Elle

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Christian Berkel, Anne Consigny, Virginie Efira, Laurent Lafitte, Charles Berling, Alice Isaaz, Judith Magre, Vimala Pons, Jonas Bloquet, Lucas Prisor and Raphaël Lenglet

‘Elle’ is a bizarre psychological thriller that stands on the formidable shoulders of the extraordinary French actress Isabelle Huppert. The movie directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by David Birke, based on the novel ‘Oh…’ by Philippe Djian, premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it received critical acclaim, and was subsequently selected as the French entry for the Best Foreign Language film at the 89th Academy Awards.

The story is all about “Her” (which is how Elle would translate), the diabolical businesswoman Michèle LeBlanc, who is raped in her home by an unknown assailant and stalks him back. Her backstory will explain the reason why she does not want her abuse to fall in the hands of the press. Her past has forced her to build an armor of imperturbability and an element of sadism, as we see the way she treats her son, her cougar mother with her toy-boy, her former spouse and his new girlfriend as well as her colleague-friend along with her husband.

The plot is intricate, over the top, and if another actress had played Michèle’s character the film would have easily become grotesque. But the grace, intensity, and rawness of Huppert provide appeal to the quirky woman.

Verhoeven’s trademark, distinguished by explicit violence and erotic content, returns to the silver screen with a sexually weaponized heroine, who as a rape survivor refuses to see herself as a victim. She takes advantage of her magnetism to manipulate the people around her. Thus a new type of woman takes the stage in contemporary society, as female empowerment coalesces with the misogynistic perception of vindictive women.

Technical: B-

Acting: A

Story: C-

Overall: C+

Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Turin Film Festival 2016 Movie Review: Elle

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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