Paul Verhoven’s latest movie is a very strange affair. I like Verhoven's work a great deal. Indeed, to my mind, he is one of our greatest living directors.
It's a great shame that his career stalled with Showgirls, a film that could have been a hit if only he and his screenwriter Joe Eszterhas — one of the most talented writers in the industry — had bothered to make us care about their characters.
But they didn't, and Showgirls pretty much put paid to their careers, at least in America. After some years of decline, both men found work in European films, though Verhoeven has very much had the best of it, with his excellent World War 2 drama Black Book (2006).
Now Verhoven is back with a film made in France called Elle. It is written for the screen by the American David Birke, based on the novel by Philippe Dijan — who also wrote the book on which Betty Blue was based.
As I said, Elle is a curious item. I have become used to defending Verhoven against the critical establishment who loathe his mainstream films like Basic Instinct, Robocop (masterpieces), Total Recall (a near masterpiece masterpiece) and Starship Troopers (hilarious and audacious).
Now I find that the critical establishment is embracing Verhoven and celebrating him for a film which I loathe. The situation is almost surreal. But I went to see my Elle anticipating that it would be something terrific, and it was a staggering disappointment.
The film is being touted as an Hitchcockian thriller but really it’s a badly judged black comedy with a heavy line in sexual violence. It’s dull, it’s pointless, and
it goes on forever. I felt ashamed of myself for wasting my time in a
darkened cinema. And it was a beautiful day, too…
There is a really lovely grey cat in it, though, called Marty. But even Marty can’t rescue this.
(Image credits: Imp Awards.)