Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movie with Abe: Elles (Capsule Review)

Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska
Released April 27, 2012

Prostitution is such a common feature of films that some joke that playing a prostitute is a surefire way to earn an Oscar (statistics don’t support that theory too heavily). As a result, the bar is set higher for films about the subject to draw out some meaningful conclusion. The new French film “Elles,” which was slapped with an NC-17 rating for its thematic content more so than any actual scene featured in the film, follows Elle journalist Anne (Juliette Binoche) as she interviews two prostitutes, one sweet and wholesome, Charlotte (Anais Demoustier), and the other, a Polish immigrant, more salacious and seductive, Alicja (Joanna Kulig). As Anne immerses herself into her article, she becomes taken with both women, drawn to the energy with which they perform on a regular basis. It’s the ultimate unglamorous performance for Binoche, who throws herself into the role completely and gives no thought to vanity. Her interviews with her subjects are spliced with flashbacks to their encounters, giving the film a very realistic and visceral feel. The film presents plenty of interesting content, but lags a bit when its finale seems out of sight. One particularly fascinating scene, in which Anne zones out during a dinner party and imagines herself surrounded by the many men Charlotte and Alicija have described to her, stands out but doesn’t lead anywhere. Hypnotic scenes such as that can be found throughout the film, but the experience as a whole isn’t quite as cohesive.


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