Is there a better living actress than Isabelle Huppert? If there is, I’m all ears. Because with each of her films that makes its way Stateside, the case gets more overwhelming. No other actor (male or female, French or American — or Martian) cycles through emotions as deftly and subtly as she does. Huppert is totally fearless and seemingly incapable of a false move. She can even turn a slightly trashy art-house thriller like Elle into something more interesting than the sum of its preposterous parts.
Directed by a back-from-the-dead Paul Verhoeven (working in the same key as his lurid 1992 provocation, Basic Instinct), the film is a deadpan psychological snapshot of a complicated Parisian videogame-company exec (Huppert) who is brutally raped in her home by a masked intruder and then wrestles with the emotional aftershocks as pressures from her family, her co-workers, and her past mount.
Verhoeven can’t seem to decide whether he’s trying to make a bold feminist statement with Elle, or a pervy, button-pushing exploitation flick classed up with subtitles (I’d argue the latter). Either way, we get to watch another unforgettable and incomparable Huppert performance while he figures it out. B