Elles Reviews

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Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ May 13, 2012
"Elles" is a French film made by a relatively young Polish-born filmmaker (Malgoska Szumowska) whom I've never heard of until now. I'm fairly certain she will be better known going forward. "Elles" does have weaknesses, but it also has impressive strengths. It establishes a place for Szumowska on the world-cinema stage. She is a filmmaker to watch.

"Elles" is beautifully filmed. Szumowska is a master of cinematography and mise-en-scene. In many instances, just the way a shot was composed took my breath away. Equally gorgeous was the editing, with cross-cutting that was consistently innovative and almost always perfect.

The film is masterfully acted, with the incomparable Juliette Binoche leading a superb supporting cast. Szumowska clearly knows how to direct actors and is able to handle middle-aged and young actors equally well, a rare skill. Every character felt authentic to me, from the teenagers to the fortysomethings. One of the hallmarks of a true artist, I believe, is the ability to empathize with characters of all ages -- seeing the world from their different perspectives.

The story line is as follows: A well-educated, middle-aged wife and mother (Binoche) is a Parisian journalist researching an article on young female prostitutes. We go along with her as she conducts several interviews with the young women. We also go along with the prostitutes on some appointments, so we get to know them first-hand as well. The film is almost as much about the young prostitutes as it is about the journalist, but it digs more deeply into the character of the journalist.

Szumowska's major interest is how the experience impacts Binoche's character. This journalist who has up until now led something like the perfect bourgeois life, finds herself distracted and irascible at home. I loved watching Binoche bring this vague ennui to life. She's not specifically unhappy about anything, but getting to know the prostitutes has vaguely unsettled her.

I love that the film doesn't get too specific about this. But this strength is paradoxically also a weakness. It gives the film a sketchy quality that can at times feel irritating, as if the film lacks a story arc. The film is also at times repetitious.

But overall, "Elles" is one of the most interesting pieces of work of the cinema season. In a year that has so far been incredibly disappointing with regard to cinema, "Elles" stands out as a brave and authentic work of art. A work of true cinema.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2014
In "Elles," Anne(Juliette Binoche) is a journalist who works out of her home that she shares with her husband and two sons. Her latest assignment is chronicling the lives of young escorts in Paris. Charlotte(Anais Demoustier) lives a double life, keeping her professional life from her family and boyfriend and working under an assumed name. Anne bluffs her way to make an appointment with Alicja(Joanna Kulig), another escort. After some reluctance, Alicja tells her tale of woe which starts with her arrival from Poland as a student only to find sexist landlords, her belongings stolen, an unsympathetic mother back home and eventually a home in the suburbs.

Even with all of the smooth tracking shots in the world, there is no getting around the fact that "Elles" is one severely disjointed movie. A lot of that has to do with what it tries to say on the subject of prostitution. It is one thing to accentuate the erotic side of the profession; it is quite another to say that Anne with her comfortable life is in a less enviable place than the women she is profiling, as she might also have a drinking problem. And again there is only so much Juliette Binoche can do with such limited and inconsistent material.
Super Reviewer
½ October 3, 2012
A journalist, Anne (Juliette Binoche) in the course of interviewing two young women, students at a Paris University, about their working as call girls for an article for the European edition of Elle magazine, gets caught up in her work and befriends the two women. Strong performances, by all and an interesting look at what drives these girls to sell themselves this way, while trying to keep up appearances of normalcy. A few scenes of brutality were hard to take and seemed not to affect the girls as much as one would expect, which made this seem a little glossed over, but all in all, and interesting study.
themoviewaffler.com
Super Reviewer
April 21, 2012
Elle columnist Binoche questions her bourgeois existence while researching an article on students who turn to prostitution.

It seems that almost every French movie now is directed by a foreigner. This year we've seen Pole Pawel Pawlikowski's "The Woman In The Fifth", Finn Aki Kaurasmaki's "Le Havre" and now this, another work from a Polish director. What all three share is that they all feel like parodies of French cinema, trading heavily on worn out Gallic cliches.
If you've seen Anne Fontaine's "Nathalie", remade as "Chloe" in the U.S, then this will seem very familiar, it's practically the same film. Binoche is one of those working women who only exist in fiction, somehow able to balance a career at one of the world's premier publications with raising two kids and preparing daily meals elaborate enough to make Nigella Lawson envious. When she begins spending time with students turned hookers Demoustier and Kulig, an existential crisis kicks in. Has she wasted her life? Should she instead have become a prostitute? Is it the fault of her bourgeois society that girls turn to this career choice? This is all played out with scenes of her masturbating frantically on the bathroom floor and offering her shocked husband drunken fellatio. If that's not enough, Szumowska pounds us with metaphors of how Binoche's domesticated life is turning against her; the fridge door won't close, saucepans and kitchen knifes provide minor injuries, and worst of all for a middle class Parisian, the electric corkscrew refuses to cooperate.
There are a few moments of unintentional hilarity, especially the dinner scene where Binoche imagines the hookers clients gathered around the table for a sing along.
Foreigners like Argentine Gaspar Noe and Austrian Michael Haneke have succeeded in France because they have something to say, Szumowska and her cohorts would rather masturbate through their contributions to Gallic cinema.
August 3, 2015
Ma?gorzata Szumowska's study of female sexuality gets bit lost as it moves forward, but once it remembers to return to focus on Juliette Binoche it leaves a sting.

The story concerns an upper-middle class Parisian journalist, Binoche, who pursues her magazine editor's assignment that causes her to re-evaluate not only her marriage but herself. Binoche is quite amazing in the role, but this is nothing new for an actor of her caliber. The other actors are all competent, but none possesses the charisma and presence that Binoche is able to utilize to great impact when Szumowska and Tine Byrckels' script fails to articulate what she is required to show us.

The main problem with this film is the director's determination to explore the professional lives of the young women Binoche's character decides to interview and ultimately even follow in pursuit of a story about immigrants and prostitution.

We waste time behind doors with these young women and their "johns' and "boyfriends" --- and Szumowska seems to be confused if she it striving to make a valid commentary about prostitution or is she is more interested in simply being provocative. When it comes to the two younger female characters, it often feels a bit like a late night cable attempt at "edgy" erotica. It doesn't work or sever the film well.

The real power of the film is the impact of both the exploitation of these women and strange mix of pity and jealousy of these two near-broken lives. Binoche's "Anne" is both repulsed and attracted to the idea of being paid for sex. The girls' stories serve as a sort of disturbing eroticism for her.

She begins to project their adventures on to her marriage and life which she has become bored. When the film focuses here, it is amazing.

As the film nears its end we see Anne slip into fantasy at an awkward dinner party. Anne is desperate for more, but she may or may not be smart enough to realize that these new "desires" are mired within a degrading objectification of female as "sexual receptacle."

These girls are more than that. As is Anne. But our director is smart enough not to give too much away regarding how Anne will re-assert her sexual identity.

I can't help but wonder if part of this film's problem has to do with the fact it has been written from the viewpoint of French as Second Language artists. Maybe something gets lost in translation.

The sex scenes feel out of place and more graphic than required. But Juliette Binoche is an endlessly fascinating actor -- it is her performance that keeps us watching and saves the movie.
March 6, 2015
I love Juliette Binoche. She is so earthy and believable. She plays a reporter who is doing a story on prostitutes, getting in-depth with them to the point of fantasizing about the stories they tell and becoming aroused by the girls themselves. Not as much nudity as you'd imagine for a NC-17 rating, which the movie clearly does not deserve. The whole thing is barely watchable though because the story moves too slowly and the girls and their johns just aren't as interesting as Binoche finds them..
April 23, 2014
i hate movies with over the top sexual content, but to the films credit the story is told pretty well and juliette binoche is always great.
½ April 13, 2014
It could have been more than just an arousing discussion material but it failed
April 5, 2014
The movie had potential, but ultimately wasted it. Potential was for an intriguing tale of voyeurism and vicarious living of an author's/researcher's life through the lives of the people she interviews for her work, and ultimately how this affects her.

In reality, the movie goes down this path, but pulls its punches and goes nowhere. For all the nudity and sex, the movie isn't that gritty, ultimately.

I was expecting a profound ending, but was very disappointed. There is no life changing, just voyeurism.

Solid performance by Juliette Binoche in the lead role. Good support from a cast of unknowns.
½ March 9, 2014
Malgoska Szumowska runs a couple of miles giving you a great developing of the argument, but she inevitably falls flat at the end of the race when Juliette Binoche's character suddenly sits at the same table that once made her run out of fear, as saying: you certainly can't live with the burden of this girls. Well maybe she couldn't do it, but the whole "easy way out of it" situation that ended up in a "easy way out of it" finale it destroyed the great amount of effort that Szumowska put on her work from the beginning.
½ February 23, 2014
Gross. It seemed more like a porno than a movie actually trying to portray an interesting story.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2014
In "Elles," Anne(Juliette Binoche) is a journalist who works out of her home that she shares with her husband and two sons. Her latest assignment is chronicling the lives of young escorts in Paris. Charlotte(Anais Demoustier) lives a double life, keeping her professional life from her family and boyfriend and working under an assumed name. Anne bluffs her way to make an appointment with Alicja(Joanna Kulig), another escort. After some reluctance, Alicja tells her tale of woe which starts with her arrival from Poland as a student only to find sexist landlords, her belongings stolen, an unsympathetic mother back home and eventually a home in the suburbs.

Even with all of the smooth tracking shots in the world, there is no getting around the fact that "Elles" is one severely disjointed movie. A lot of that has to do with what it tries to say on the subject of prostitution. It is one thing to accentuate the erotic side of the profession; it is quite another to say that Anne with her comfortable life is in a less enviable place than the women she is profiling, as she might also have a drinking problem. And again there is only so much Juliette Binoche can do with such limited and inconsistent material.
August 17, 2013
Szumowska as a filmmaker seems more confused than the characters she presents. Less an exploration into female sexuality than an exploration into the selling of female sexuality to the whims of men as customers. The correlation between prostitution and marriage never really connects. However, Juliette Binoche has enough presence to carry this film to some redemption. Her performance is brilliant.
½ July 25, 2013
A captivating story of how things we see daily are cast a new light on. Tour de force of ageing Binoche and talented Szumowska.
June 30, 2013
Prostitution is often used in films to depict the humiliation and inhumanity of capitalism but ELLES takes a far more complex and distant approach. Here prostitution is used to examine issues of class, education, and femininity while also hitting on the horrible depths we all must hit to survive in our competitive society. Never banal and thankfully never titillating, ELLES is held together by three wonderful female performances. There's a connection amongst these three but also huge separations of class that are glaringly apparent in every way. ELLES examines deep unhappiness and frissures but also the desire to move on and survive. A fabulous ending where nothing is resolved, implies we're all on this machine that will not stop for us or anyone else. ELLES is ultimately a haunting film about a society that marches on and over us.
February 7, 2013
ˇBinoche es de oro! ella hace la película, punto.
½ January 29, 2013
What's the point of this semi-pornographic movie? Juliette Binoche couldn't help anything.
½ January 6, 2013
Only good for the graphic sex. Story is confused, incomplete, shallow.
½ December 8, 2012
Roger Ebert put it quite well; Elles is "disappointingly shallow." I'll add that I found ti cynical since there is no resolution and all the characters will continue living the sad lives they always have had. The good dramatic scenes of Juliet Binoche being inter-cut with graphic porno scenes as the young prostitutes service their clients is beyond awkward.
½ October 28, 2012
Feministic crap. Obnoxious and boring.
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