Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director of RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Showgirls, is 78 years old — and as naughty as ever.

Elle is Verhoeven’s first movie in 10 years (since 2006’s terrific WW2 thriller Black Book) and the intervening decade has definitely not softened his knack as a provocateur. The new film opens with the sounds of a woman named Michele (Isabelle Huppert) as she is being sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home. But the first shot: a cat, who is watching the attack, and eventually turns away in boredom.

Verhoeven, likewise, not interested in the rape itself or in exploiting Michele’s victimhood for cinematic pleasure. Neither is she, as we soon find out. The film is ostensibly a revenge fantasy, but Elle starts by pulling the rug out from under our feet and doesn’t stop pulling until its final scene. It premiered in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where French film icon Huppert, 63, received some of the best reviews of her 40-year career.

Check out the trailer for Elle above. Sony Pictures Classics is opening the film in theaters on Nov. 11.

  • Movie
  • 114 minutes