Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle,” a critically-acclaimed film from France about a woman who deals in unexpected ways with the aftermath of being raped, was left off the Oscars Foreign Language Film shortlist of nine. While you would think that would hurt its chances at this Sunday’s Golden Globes, those precursor prizes have a history of going their own way in this category. And that could allow “Elle” to pull off an upset against the German entry “Toni Erdmann,” the frontrunner both the Globes and at the Oscars.
Julian Schnabel‘s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007) and Pedro Almodovar‘s “Talk To Her” (2002) both won at the Globes despite not making the cut with the academy. The former, a French language film, was deemed ineligible in foreign language film at the Oscars as it was produced by an American company. The latter was not even submitted by Spain. Both movies received Oscar nominations elsewhere (Almodovar won Original Screenplay while “Diving Bell” contended for director, adapted screenplay, cinematography and film editing) just as “Elle” is likely to do with Isabelle Huppert in Best Actress.
Maren Ade‘s “Toni Erdmann” is a three-hour long comedy about a father and daughter relationship. “Elle” tells a much more culturally relevant story. Showing us the effects of sexual assault from a woman’s perspective is one not often seen in cinema. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. may choose to recognize the film with the timelier subject matter much as they did in 2014 with the Russian entry “Leviathan,” a sharp working-class critique of the Putin regime, over the Polish drama “Ida,” which went on to win the Oscar.
And remember, the Globes have often made more controversial choices in this category than the Oscars. In 2005, it went with the Palestinian suicide-bomber drama “Paradise Now” over South Africa’s heartfelt “Tsotsi,” which went on to win the Oscar. And in 2008, the Globe winner was the banned-in-Lebanon Israeli drama “Waltz with Bashir” while the Oscar champ was the sentimental Japanese film “Departures.”
“Elle” has two more factors working in its favor at the Globes, which none of its competitors have: an internationally acclaimed director in the Dutch-born Verhoeven and that additional nomination for Huppert. While Ade earned rave reviews for writing and directing “Toni Erdmann,” she is hardly as well-known as Verhoeven.
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