Saturday, February 4, 2017

Movie Review: ELLE

Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) seems indestructible. Head of a successful video game company, she brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business. Being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes Michèle's life forever. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game—one that may, at any moment, spiral out of control.

One thing that is clear to me when reviewing this film is the hardship of doing so: Elle is a singular film that touches upon its subject matter in an incredibly detached way which is why we are shown events and characters from a perspective that is totally fresh and new even though it can carry through a little too much.

What it comes down to is that how the film treats its characters is exactly reflecting of how Michèle treats them. There is a perfect correspondence of style to story and it makes for a fascinating watch. You are carried through into this character's world and you start to root for her in a very convincing way to the point that you find her to be the the moral measure of the film even though her actions in practice would be questionable from a different point of view.

This is what great art does in my opinion: it takes the lens of reality and turns it around to make the audience experience something in a new way. That's what this film does in spades. It is not trying to present a world where each character is entitled or that there is only one right way. That is because Michèle sees things this way. It is brilliantly structured storytelling that hits hard on its goals.

Then, at the center of all of this, is Huppert's magnetic performance. When watching foreign movies, a sign a of great performance is when thinking back I can't remember the language they were speaking. I just remember the character and how alive it felt. Huppert sells every beat of this woman's methods and ideas. There isn't a false moment in what she does and she does justice to a script that required the commitment she gives it to become convincing.

Where I take a little issue with this film is in the clarity of the succession of some of the key events. The film slightly glosses over a couple of key plot points. These might have been intentionally left a little unclear, but in my view, a little too far so. I had some difficulties, especially in the first act, in understanding what went down and because of that I didn't understand Michèle's motivations in the early stages.

Yet, once the narrative flow gets thicker, it starts being overwhelming and you experience a solid character thriller with a multifaceted uniqueness that stretches from the setting, to the characters, to the core material.

James' Score: 8/10

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