Flickerfest 2017

Josip Knezevic

60 Shorts. 1 Academy Accredited Award for Best Australian Short Film. Yes, it’s the 26th Flickerfest Short Film Festival: a showcase from Australian filmmakers to Australian audiences. Compared to Australia’s most popular short film festival Tropfest, which displays 16 films each year, Flickerfest has the ability to boast a larger catalogue, which will be sure to please anyone’s genre tastes.

But with a larger array of films, it can be more challenging to decipher which ones are worth your time. Never fear: Hooked On Film is here to help. If you do get a chance to see the festival, be on the lookout for these four, which are bound to impress you with what Australia has to offer. While there may be a series of international films also available in the festival, we’re only looking at the Australian entries today.

4. I’m Raymond (17 mins)
Produced by Lib Kelly, Catherine Williams
Written and Directed by Eddy Bell

03 March - Flickerfest Im Raymond
Distorting the lines between fiction and reality, I’m Raymond takes a trivial idea and extorts it to the highest of consequences. 8-year-old Raymond Banks starts a name and shame campaign against his family’s company on the sole basis that they are responsible for jeopardising his future by contributing to global warming. Soon a drug-addicted model becomes involved, an official case is lodged and Karl Stefanovic reports it on the news – see what I mean by the highest of consequences?

Whilst the ludicrousness of the situation escalates on screen, a deeper meaning subsides the visual conflicts. Ultimately this is what elevates Bell’s short film to be in top 4 of this list. It becomes a message not about global warming or climate change but one that deals with the relationships between children and adults.

3. Face (13 mins)
Produced by Luke Tierney, Michelle Hardy
Written by Luke Tierney, Henry Nixon
Directed by Luke Tierney

03 March - Flickerfest Face
Speaking of distorting lines, Luke Tierney’s Face takes it to another level. The pitch: James urgently needs to get to the pharmacy by midnight to receive his “mysterious” pills otherwise his face will literally fall off. Unfortunately it’s 11:30pm and the only one who can drive him is his weird neighbour Steve. OK, let’s go.

What I enjoyed the most about Tierney’s experiment was the way the film was shot and presented. There’s a real lucid like feel to the whole drive and it works incredibly well with the overall tone of the short. It’s strange, but that’s what makes it great. The humour is unique and unsuspecting and you can’t help but be completely induced by its trippy presentation. It’s a stoner’s idea for a movie but thankfully it’s one that holds up to its absurdity and is enjoyable to watch.

2. Fish With Legs (10 Mins)
Produced by Nikos Andronicos, Tania Frampton
Written by Nikos Andronicos
Directed by Dave Carter

03 March - Flickerfest Fish with Legs
Short but bittersweet. Fish with Legs effortlessly brushes through the conflicts of science and religion with humour, emotion and beautiful animation to leave a lasting impression long after the credits roll. The story follows a school of fish who awake to discover that everyone in their society has now grown legs. A young enthusiastic preacher of science takes this as the proof he’s been waiting for and declares that evolution is occurring and it is now time for them to take action and move forward out of the seas. What lies ahead is short film that is smarter that what it appears to be.

Andronicos’ script carefully weaves logic with faith to present an array of meanings to take away. This is not a short film bashing those of religious faith over those in the scientific community; it’s a presentation of how these ideas would have manifested in earlier times and how they still reflect the reality of today. Steadied with the careful eye of Dave Carter at the helm, Fish With Legs represents a rare but well overdue gem of Australian animation.

1. The Eleven O’Clock
Produced by Derin Seale, Karen Bryson, Josh Lawson
Written by Josh Lawson
Directed by Derin Seale

03 March - Flickerfest Eleven Oclock

It’s hard to argue against the winner of the Flickerfest festival, Josh Lawson’s The Eleven O’Clock. A cleverly written, sharp and fast paced film that packs memorable lines of dialogue – I can’t wait to watch this short film again. Following the footsteps of iconic comedy routines by Abbott and Costello, the setup involves a delusional patient of who believes he is actually a psychiatrist up against his “real” psychiatrist. As they attempt to treat each other, a battle of wits begins with all glory going to the winner and a tragic end to the loser.

The best part about Lawson’s script is how actively it includes the audience in its story. You become the detective trying to solve the very puzzle itself of who’s who and this is what makes it so much fun. Up until the very last minute, you have no clue on what the outcome is going to, be but looking back, the subtle foreshadowing will make you kick yourself. Truly an equally funny film as it is smartly written.

Images courtesy of Flickerfest

Advertisements

Movie Review – Bad Santa 2

Hoe Hoe Hoe. Bad Santa is back in town and as per usual, he’s up to his old bag of tricks.

⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic


Billy Bob Thornton returns as our favourite cynical Santa Claus with his trusty elf conspirator Marcus (Tony Cox). As per usual, Marcus has another job that requires the expertise of Thornton’s safe cracking abilities, but this time around it involves working with a blast from the past. Kathy Bates joins the case as Willie Sokes’ mother, Sunny Soke, and together the trio are back to their old hijinks. With cameos from the first movie popping up here and there, it seems Bad Santa 2 is keen to continue carrying the proverbial torch that lit up so many offensive barriers in the original.

Having watched the original after seeing this sequel, it’s safe to say that fans of the first will love the second. In fact, one can even say the new film takes things to the next level, with even more of an emphasis on brutally crass jokes. If only the same could be said for the quality of these jokes.

Thornton is captivating in this role as he truly embodies Willie’s dispirited nature and cynicism. You can’t help but love seeing him berate everyone around him and expose the stupidity of others. It’s this black comedy that makes the Bad Santa series somewhat unique, but its downfall is its simple-minded storyline.

Too many idiotic scenes attempt crude humour purely for the purpose of being crude. There are moments when our nympho Santa really hits the nail on the head with a certain comeback or a particular punchline, but these are few and far between. With nothing else for the film to fall back on, there’s not a lot here to like.

As we often see with comedy sequels, Bad Santa 2 is simply a lesson of history repeating itself. Yes, it will please those who enjoyed the original, but that’s not saying much.

Bad Santa 2 is available in Australian cinemas from November 24

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment

Movie Review – The Light Between Oceans

The austere beauty of the visuals and the quiet strength of the performances are at times overwhelmed by the predictable melodrama at the centre of the film.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Charlie Lewis

With his rugged jawline and haunted, piercing eyes, Michael Fassbender was born to be filmed looking pensively out to sea. It is a talent that Derek Cianfrance’s sweeping tear jerker The Light Between Oceans (based on M.L Stedman’s novel) regularly calls upon.

Fassbender plays Tom Sherbourne, a WWI veteran who takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock off the coast of Western Australia. The purposeful solitude of this role is all he wants after the horrors of the Western Front. When he is forced to talk to other people, he is terse and quiet, until the person he’s talking to is Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a local girl who punctures Sherbourne’s world like a sunbeam through overcast skies. The pair eventually marry and after their initial idyll, fate imposes more hardship and loss on two people who have had enough of both to fill several lifetimes.

The early sequences in The Light Between Oceans are lyrical and affecting, particularly as Tom and Isabel fall for one another; their chemistry glows against the perpetual gloom of the island’s austere terrain. Tom’s self-loathing survivor’s guilt and Isabel’s determination to create something better for them drive the most consequential moments of the film.

But as the misfortune and cruelty pile up, the film severs the connection between us and the characters. They gradually cease being the recognisable humans we fell in love with, and become silent targets for punishment. By the time the film snaps back into focus, the damage is done. The distancing is furthered by the casting. I welcome the peppering of Australian character actors (Garry McDonald, Jack Thompson, Bryan Brown) and I understand, without approving of, the decision to cast three non-Australian’s in the biggest roles, but the combination is distracting.

Still, for all its broad melodrama and unmistakable Oscar bait tendencies, The Light between Oceans delivers stirring imagery and giddy yet understated romance early on.

The Light Between Oceans is available in Australian cinemas from November 3

Image courtesy of eOne Films 

Movie Review – American Honey

Possibly the most poignant American road movie since Easy Rider.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Teenager Star (Sasha Lane) seems to have very little in her impoverished life, as evident when we meet her scrounging around for food in dumpsters to feed the kids of the white trash family she squats with. So when she happens upon a group of energetic and similarly proletarian teens, and is propositioned by their flirtatious leader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) to join them as they travel across Midwest America, there’s nothing to lose. She enters a world of homeless but happy kids doing everything they can to survive while still partying as hard as possible along the way. An explosion of highs and lows, mixed with the emotions and impulses of growing up await Star on the open road.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what kind of a film Andrea Arnold’s (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) American Honey is, since it’s really more of an experience; a kinetic painting of youth enthusiastically splashed against a canvas of economic disparity. Though the odd bit of traditional storytelling peeks around the corner here and there, with a sort-of romance between its two somewhat star crossed leads, most sense of a narrative structure is completely AWOL. This is a montage of raw moments, a haze of hormonal feelings pulsating in and out to the throbbing rhythm of its pop and rap soundtrack. Coming of age may be nothing new, but Arnold’s vision of it is unique, vibrant, hypnotic and infectiously optimistic.

Working in her standard 4:3 aspect ratio combined with guerrilla handheld cameras, Arnold keeps things at an incredibly intimate and private scope, really giving the illusion that we’re with the kids in their impetuous travels. We’re granted a contrasting look at the opposing ends of America’s class scale, which speaks wonders but never passes judgement; both the rich and the poor are shown to be capable of equal virtue and malice. Most refreshing is its portrayal of a generation too often partnered with cynicism; these are simply young people making the most out of life that they can with an inspiring amount of ambition and idealism.

Andrea Arnold supposedly stumbled upon Sasha Lane at a beach while on spring break, and her idea to have her film led by someone unfamiliar with acting is a hugely effective one. It doesn’t feel like acting really – Lane just is Star, going with the flow and simply being a teenage girl as life washes over her. On the other hand, we’ve all been aware of Shia LaBeouf for quite some time, which is where he defies all expectations, giving what is likely his best performance. He’s unlike he’s ever been before here – a shaggy, complex bundle of messy energy tied up in a rat tail – and it’s abundantly clear that he’s having much more fun here than he did in any studio film.

An intensely visceral and gleeful juncture of growing up in poverty, American Honey is possibly the most poignant American road movie since Easy Rider.

American Honey is available in Australian cinemas from November 3

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Just when everyone thought superhero movies were getting dull, Scott Derrickson brings us Doctor Strange.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Every time a superhero film is announced I heave a sigh of dismay, and yet I keep walking out of Marvel movies filled with the same delight I used to experience as a kid slumped in front of the television watching action cartoons. Marvel have found that key formula; that fountain of youth to keep their movies eternally fresh. In a time when terrorism is omnipresent, presidential candidates are bigger than rock stars, and DC Comics would rather feature grumpy old ranchers protecting their cows instead of true heroes, Marvel rightfully remembers that superheroes are supposed to save people, and enjoy doing it.

Doctor Strange is a superhero movie that returns the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its cheerful beginnings. The core story regarding The Avengers has become very sombre – Iron Man and Captain America are about one wrong look away from tearing each other’s heads off. Doctor Strange shuts all that noise out and plays its own game, which comes with its own rules and consequences, and my word, it’s something else.

As a visual feast for our poor eyes, this is perhaps the greatest of all the Marvel movies. Things happen here that my most deluded fantasies could not conjure, and there is a final showdown along the streets of Hong Kong that plays with the logical parameters of time and space in a way that makes the best Star Trek episodes look frightfully linear. I’ve seen computer graphics employed masterfully in great films before, but the effects in Doctor Strange take the rules of our world and bend them out of reality. It’s what we all want good CGI to do: help the filmmakers tell a story, not tell it for them.

As a superhero concept, Doctor Strange is a success. How could it not be? Here is a character who has lived on paper (and on some TV screens) since the 1960s. He should know his way around a 120-minute movie by now. And while his destiny – unknowing everyman becomes messianic saviour because he is essentially the Chosen One – borrows heavily from many older heroic tales, Benedict Cumberbatch balances the surprise of learning about his fate and the well-worn experience required to battle demonic apparitions in the Dark Dimension with as much stoic panache as humanly possible.

As a movie that tells an unfolding narrative, however, Doctor Strange is a little less impressive. Strange basically follows in the footsteps of every arrogant jerk turned likeable pal, with Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) from What Women Want and Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) from Bruce Almighty serving as likely role models. Even his transformation via magical intervention is repeated. The rest resembles Star Wars outfitted with the folding buildings from Inception, or rather what Star Wars will become before the end of 2019. It all still works, though. I just wish the parallels were a little more askew.

Nevertheless, Doctor Strange is pulsating proof that Marvel seldom steps wrong and that their grip on their comic properties is so sure-footed they’ve managed to wait eight years before radically shifting the dynamics of their franchise. While DC is fumbling just to stand, Marvel keeps us guessing, keeps us satisfied, and ensures our astral projections remain spiritually aligned.

Doctor Strange is available in Australian cinemas from October 27

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

Movie Review – The Neon Demon

Nicolas Winding Refn returns with another exercise in style over substance – and I kinda loved it.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Drenched in glitter, gold body paint and big cat fetishism, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is destined to divide audiences directly down the middle. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it for exactly the same reasons. Which side you fall on depends on your tolerance for abstract plotting, garish cinematography and on the nose messaging that screams, “this is symbolism!”

Elle Fanning plays Jesse, a 16-year-old small town girl with dreams of being a model, who moves to LA and finds herself swamped by an industry instantly captivated by her sharp doll-like visage and flawless porcelain skin. Living out of a seedy motel run by Hank (Keanu Reeves) and with the help of friendly make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone), Jesse’s arrival doesn’t go unnoticed by her peers; envious glances from Gigi (Australia’s Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (another Aussie Abbey Lee) signal their fears that their expiration date has already been and gone.

About halfway into the film, Alessandro Nivola’s fashion designer comments that “beauty isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” If that doesn’t spell out Refn’s intentions then and there, get out while you still can because this film isn’t for you. Like Refn’s 2013 effort Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon is all about style over substance.

It’s unashamedly artsy as fuck and doesn’t even attempt to disguise it. You’ll be entranced, repulsed and slightly aroused, sometimes all at the same time – an odd sensation that Refn would no doubt be delighted to discover his film was eliciting.

The pace is achingly slow, but the film itself is never boring. Every frame is lit, staged and composed with such meticulous purpose and lavish detail that the final product resembles a glossy fashion magazine sprung to life. Even when there isn’t much happening in terms of plot, Refn holds you in a hypnotic trance of colour and noise.

If nothing else, you can always marvel at Natasha Braier’s arresting cinematography or let Cliff Martinez’s pulsating cocktail of dark disco and honeyed synth invade your ears. Psychedelic kaleidoscopes and shimmering, dreamlike vistas compliment a plot that is purposely ambiguous and slight at first. Refn holds a lot in reserve before unleashing a batshit insane third act that strikes like a coiled snake waiting to lash out and sink its teeth.

Truth is, I could sit here all day and wax lyrical about this film until I’m blue in the face, but it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to roughly half of everyone who sees it. The simple fact is that a lot of people will be turned off The Neon Demon just as they have been in the past with Refn’s prior work. And whilst it isn’t quite an all-timer like Drive, it certainly outstrips whatever the hell was going on in Only God Forgives.

The Neon Demon is available in Australian cinemas from October 20

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment

Movie Review – Boys in the Trees

Are you sick of Australian movies just being about normal blokes in suburbia?  What if we add ghosts ‘n stuff!?

⭐ ½
Cody Fullbrook

Corey (Toby Wallace) and his douchebag friends spend their high school graduation smoking, drinking and bullying school outcast, Jonah (Gulliver McGrath).  Later that night Corey finds Jonah, and out of guilt he walks him home, initiating a surreal trip of memories and regrets.

The two boy’s time together is plagued with absurdity.  Spooky houses, creeping shadows and a man in a white suit have no clear relevance to anything.  The actor’s stilted line delivery is somewhat forgivable since they’re working with pretentious lines like “there’s worse things than falling”, but the odd imagery and Jonah talking like he hopped out of Lewis Carroll’s head creates a foggy story that is constantly uninviting.

The strangeness of the journey is only matched by the boy’s chemistry which arbitrarily fluctuates as Jonah acts snarky then pitiable before switching back. It’s only when Corey interacts with his friend, Jango (Justin Holborow), that Boys In The Trees shows some sparks.  They share a sincere, movie-saving final scene and all their interactions are bursting with energy. Justin play Jango with such confident menace that it’s believable he may end up having a life as grim as the Star Wars character of the same name.

Everyone else, however, doesn’t get enough screen time to show much personality, including Corey’s wannabe girlfriend, Romany (Mitzi Ruhlmann), and his downtrodden father (Terence Crawford).

There was a complete failure to amalgamate three separate stories of Halloween scares, childhood reminiscence and a teenager standing up for himself, and with too much attention focused on pseudo-symbolic moments, the film is never scary, nostalgic or empowering.  With a narrative as messy as it is vague and a plot twist too heavily hinted at to be surprising, Boys In The Trees isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Boys in the Trees is available in Australian cinemas from October 20

Image courtesy of Mushroom Pictures

Movie Review – Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

The second Jack Reacher movie reaches for greatness, but fails to grasp it. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury 

The ultimate power fantasy for 40-something dads on holiday is back! This time ex-military police officer/freelance badass Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) must go to ground after implicating himself with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), a senior military official accused of espionage. Caught in a conspiracy that covers smuggled weapons, corrupt soldiers and a tearaway teenage girl, a long-forgotten encounter from his past also comes back to haunt Reacher.

Never Go Back doesn’t quite live up to its underrated predecessor, but it still offers a little bit of everything for fans of its leading man. This is Tom Cruise’s film through-and-through, complete with numerous running scenes and the occasional brooding topless shot. Bolstered by taut pacing and director Edward Zwick’s experienced eye behind the lens, the film is best characterised as a solid mid-budget, low-stakes action film that gets the job done – albeit with a few bumps that threaten to derail the fun.

While it lacks a flagship set piece like the car chase from the first Reacher film, the action is still good; Zwick holds onto that no-nonsense punchiness that Christopher McQuarrie brought to the series. Like last time, Reacher leaves a trail of shattered femurs and punctured lungs in his wake – but it does make you wonder how much better this series could be if they pursued an MA15+ rating.

Smulders is great as the military policeman under fire for spying; her character is billed as an intellectual and physical match for Reacher, creating a tug-of-war dynamic that makes for some entertaining conflict between the two.

However, aside from the two leads, Never Go Back’s cast isn’t anything to write home about. Danika Yarosh plays Samantha, the 15-year-old stroppy schoolgirl who gets swept up in the chase, but her unpolished and uneven performance is often grating. Her entire subplot weighs the film down through the middle third as Cruise is hamstrung with babysitting when he should be bashing in skulls. It’s a disjointed attempt to inject some pseudo-paternal emotion to proceedings and ends up feeling mismatched with the rest of the film.

Similarly, the piss-weak villain isn’t even half as entertaining as Werner Herzog was in the first movie. Patrick Heusinger plays a lethal hitman assigned to bring Reacher down – and that’s about it. C’mon guys – if you’re going to make Cruise race around town, at least give him a compelling enemy to run away from.

All told, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is your typical, middle-of-the-road game of cat-and-mouse that fails to linger long in your memory. The stripped back action is just as snappy as you remember, but the plot is a little patchy and neutered by uninteresting subplots and a villain as dull as dishwater. Let’s hope a hypothetical third instalment dispenses with the pleasantries and gets back to bare-knuckle business.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is available in Australian cinemas from October 20

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures 

Movie Review – Keeping Up With The Joneses

A rock solid cast is wasted on the cinematic equivalent of disappointing fast food. 

⭐ ½
Charlie Lewis

What a dream Isla Fisher must be for the casting directors of films like Keeping Up with the Joneses. She is, obviously, a gifted comic actor, but just as important, she is beautiful enough to fulfill the one unbreakable rule of middle of the road, suburban comedy: the schlubby, button down worker drone at the narrative’s center (in this case, an oddly subdued Zach Galifianakis) must have a wife several divisions out of his league.

Fisher and Galifianakis play Karen and Jeff Gaffney, whom we meet seeing their two sons off to camp. They return to their house, briefly consider sex, and then decide to watch TV instead. Their content but dull idyll is punctured when the Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) move in next door. The pair are impossibly beautiful, strikingly worldly, endlessly charming. Karen, high strung and over solicitous, is suspicious. Jeff, big hearted and credulous, just wants new best friends. Karen’s belief the Joneses are not what they seem turns out to be correct, which will be a spoiler only to those who haven’t seen the poster. Or, like, a movie before.

The Joneses adheres to as many clichés as it can cram into its 105 minutes; it’s premise of a loving but bored couple, revitalised by a touch of adventure; the clunky attempts to jam insight and pathos in amongst the hijinks to give the illusion of personal drama; the dynamic of stress-pot wife and childlike goof husband. And my personal favourite – the wife, having become implicitly asexual over the course of the marriage is forced by the plot to dress sexy, so the husband can look at her and realise what we’ve known all along.

Look, you don’t go to Keeping Up with the Joneses expecting staggering innovation or surgically precise storytelling, any more than you go to McDonald’s expecting Lobster Thermidor. But you do expect a minimum level of care in the assembly.

The Joneses is unforgivably scattershot and listless. Plot threads and character traits are introduced and discarded seemingly at random. Early in the film, we see Jeff – who works in Human Resources, and is supposedly very good at it – telling slightly racist jokes to an Indian colleague. Would Jeff actually do this? Is he actually kind of racist? The film doesn’t much care. Later, there is a decently handled car chase sequence, which on reflection makes almost no sense to the plot. It’s just there because an action comedy needs some action… and so on – nothing seems to have any consequence. The cast are all talented comics, or lovely to look at (or in the case of Hamm and Fisher, both), but the lack of cohesion of the plot leaves them looking aimless.

“Aim for the moon,” goes the old inspirational quote, “even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.” Keeping up with the Joneses aims for McDonald’s. It lands in Chicken Treat.

Keeping Up With The Joneses is available in Australian cinemas from October 20

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie Review – Elle

Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert examine the complexities of rape and ignite French cinema with their troubling findings.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

Isabelle Huppert once again plays a hardened woman faced with unthinkable circumstances. At 63, her role in Paul Verhoeven’s chilling Elle demonstrates her complete confidence in herself. She plays Michèle Leblanc, an esteemed businesswoman suddenly engaged in psychological warfare with a hungry rapist. But the repercussions are unprecedented, and Huppert convinces me once and for all that there is no mountain she cannot summit.

This role, in this film, can be played by no other actress. Hollywood stars would seek a desperation from within to try and balance the shock of rape with vindication. The effect would fall flat. Huppert is ideal because her Michèle is past all that. She transforms the character into a conflicted realist. Observe the almost routine way she deals with the aftermath of her assault. No panic. No overt anger. She sweetly disposes of the shattered kitchenware and neatens up. Hollywood Michèle would’ve laid on the floor weeping in self-pity till the movie decided to switch scenes.

But Michèle is not flippant. Rape has affected her deeply, only she’s not entirely sure what that means. And neither are we. The film seems to play fast and loose with expectations on how to deal with such trauma, but the characters in Elle are built from different stock. They don’t play the game the way we’d like them to.

I wouldn’t dream of revealing the identity of the attacker, but his presence is a powerful reminder that danger lives in plain sight. Both he and Michèle know the rules of their game – of which Michèle unwillingly becomes a participant – and plan their moves and countermoves like stoic grandmasters locked in a sudden-death showdown. Their resulting “relationship” might seem odd to some viewers, but it is the logical outcome for such confident opponents.

The movie is about sex, both consensual and forced, between friends and lovers, committed and adulterous, but not in the way you might think. This isn’t a vulgar film. Michèle’s life is surrounded by temptation; indeed, she seems to draw in every male around her simply by looking at him. What’s her play here? Huppert excels in exhibiting raw sexual energy almost on instinct. Michèle’s mistake is thinking she’s the only one in control.

All this is superbly handled by Verhoeven, who proved with RoboCop (1987) and Total Recall (1990) that bludgeoning violence is the new frontier. Elle is undoubtedly his most sensual film. Dark, weighty, ominous. There’s less violence and more dialogue. It uses peripheral characters and subplots to thicken the soup without altering the taste. It speaks about rape as an individual’s hardship, not as a mass idea open to widespread discussion. It affirms the notion that no response to rape can be uncomplicated. Michèle is strong and mature enough to understand what has happened to her. It is therefore her choice to proceed as she sees fit, except no one, not even herself, would’ve predicted what she’d do.

Elle is available in Australian cinemas from October 27

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures