Cat-and-mouse revenge game

Cat-and-mouse revenge game
In Elle, Isabelle Huppert plays Michele, a businesswoman who resolutely tracks down her rapist.
PHOTO: The Projector

MOVIE: Elle

STARRING: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling

DIRECTOR: Paul Verhoeven

THE SKINNY: The owner of a successful video-game company is raped in her own home. The attacker sends her cryptic messages, and she embarks on a quest to find him.

RATING: M18

Elle is showing exclusively at The Projector.

French film Elle has been called a "rape revenge comedy".

Odd but not inaccurate.

At the very start of the movie, Michele (Huppert) is brutally raped at home in the afternoon.

Before you have time to digest the horror of what is happening, Michele is alone, bleeding, and picking herself up off her kitchen floor.

She calmly takes a bath. She orders sushi on the phone, asking: "What is a holiday roll?"

It is a silly question, designed to make you laugh.

There are moments like this throughout the film.

Michele goes about her life - nagging her mother for keeping a toy boy, pleading with her loser son to dump his abusive girlfriend, keeping up with her regular midday trysts with a friend's husband.

But she experiences flashbacks to the rape, and her attacker starts sending her stalker-ish text messages.

Who is he? Michele plays a game of cat and mouse with several men in her life whom she suspects, trying to tease out her attacker.

Dutch auteur Verhoeven, who directed RoboCop and Total Recall, has a knack for mixing the uncomfortable with the entertaining.

There is a deft balancing of moods here, and Huppert is chillingly superb.

Her Michele refuses sympathy from friends and family - and the audience.

You will flinch, you will laugh, you will be mightily disturbed, but not in the way you would expect from a "rape movie".

julrasul@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 1, 2017.
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