When asked during our recent webcam chat (watch above) about the almost unanimous praise for his new film “Elle,” director Paul Verhoeven couldn’t help but feel proud. “There have been other movies that have been successful, and others that were not, and in this case, a movie that is what you could certainly call controversial, that basically the reviews are positive in general is of course very pleasant.” Controversial it may be, this Sony Pictures Classics release starring Isabelle Huppert as a successful businesswoman caught in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the unknown man who raped her is nevertheless a serious awards contender for its star and filmmaker, and could be a threat to win the Foreign Language Film Oscar.
The Dutch auteur, best know for such genre satires as “RoboCop” (1987) and “Basic Instinct” (1992), believes the film has a strong effect on audiences because, “it goes into unknown territory.” He explains, “the story doesn’t develop in a way that is common, I would say, to American filmmaking.” While most would expect the third act to show Huppert taking revenge against her attacker, “Elle” goes, “in the opposite direction. I think that is perhaps upsetting to people,” yet, “on the other side it’s liberating because you see here a woman that takes care of herself, that refuses to be a victim.”
He reveals that one of the chief reasons the film re-located from the U.S. to France, where the Philippe Djian‘s original novel takes place, was because, “we could not find an American A-list actress that wanted to do it.” Enter Huppert, who Verhoeven knew, “wanted to do the movie even before I had ever read the book.” He adds, “we had the same intuition about the character, I think. We didn’t have to discuss it.”
“Elle” could return Verhoeven to the Oscar race for the first time since “Turkish Delight” (1973), which lost the Foreign Language Film award to Francois Truffaut‘s “Day for Night.” He could also find himself in the Best Director category, which often favors international talents such as Austrian Michael Haneke for “Amour” (2012). Check out our full interview below for more about his work on “Elle.”
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