Elle (M18: mature theme and sexual violence)
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Sharon Stone can close her legs in defeat. The Dutch provocateur Paul Verhoeven at 78 has directed a psychosexual rape-revenge black comedy thriller more shocking than his 1992 Basic Instinct.
His first French film, starring the incomparable Isabelle Huppert, Elle begins with Huppert’s video game company lady boss Michèle Leblanc being brutally assaulted in her Paris home by a masked intruder — and then resuming her life, unruffled. She is spiteful to everyone whether her Botoxed mother (Judith Magre) or failed novelist ex (Charles Berling). Her business partner is her best friend (Anne Consigny), and she is sleeping with the husband (Christian Berkel) while also coming on to a young married handsome neighbour (Laurent Lafitte).
Michèle refuses to play the victim, just as Huppert resists making Michèle a likeable or understandable heroine.
Even the rapist, who returns for two more attacks, fails to reckon with Michèle’s sick games in a cruel and disturbingly funny satire on female empowerment that confounds the equation between sex and domination along its way to winning the 2017 Golden Globes’ Best Foreign-Language Picture plus Best Actress for Huppert’s supreme sangfroid. She is the nominee to watch at the Academy Awards later this month. In French with English subtitles. 4/5 [Exclusively at The Projector, <theprojector.sg/filmsandevents>]