Elles - Trailer
Juliette Binoche stars in Elles as a French magazine journalist whose research for a story on female students supporting themselves through prostitution starts to influence and subtly upend her own life.PT1M51S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2dmwa 620 349 January 31, 2013
(R, 96 minutes.)
In Elles, the remarkable Juliette Binoche plays Anne, a French magazine journalist whose research for a story on female students supporting themselves through prostitution starts to influence and subtly upend her own life.
The unwritten contracts between men and women - whether as client and escort, or husband and wife - become dangerously defined for this accomplished middle-class professional as she judges not the young women she interviews but herself.
Like several of her notable Polish predecessors, filmmaker Malgoska Szumowska brings a strange playfulness to the everyday, where domestic rituals and sudden fantasies might coexist with matter-of-fact naturalism. As her camera investigates Anne's apartment, the space is serene and open when Anne is alone, but crowded and driven by prickly discord when dominated by the masculine disdain of her husband, Patrick (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), and their two sons.
For Parisian university students Charlotte (Anais Demoustier) and Alicja (Joanna Kulig), prostitution is a straightforward path - there are no pimps, no violence, and they profess to enjoy the material rewards and the feeling of control they hold over their clients' desires. Like Anne, they are seemingly assured, and like Anne, their unease only manifests itself upon closer inspection.
Szumowska cuts between scenes quickly and eschews establishing exposition. Anne might ask a question of Charlotte, but the answer comes from Alicja; the former is seen in bed with a young man, and the ardour between them might infer he is her boyfriend, but then he gets dressed and pays.
There are several explicit sex scenes, but they are only erotic in tone when they're visualised by Anne, and as the film progresses, Binoche's performance grows increasingly elusive as her character starts to wonder if she is unfulfilled, or simply ignored.
It only takes Charlotte's comment about seeing ''bored husbands'' to make Anne reconsider Patrick, and his response is that fallback of all men trying to ward off feminine inquiry: ''You're crazy.'' Anne certainly isn't, but there's a transference between her own life and the circumstances of the two younger women that grows increasingly strong, culminating in a calmly hallucinatory dinner-party scene, which, like so much of Elles, offers not answers but a sense of change.
The movie, with Anne as the investigator, is a kind of mystery whereby the woman asking questions is pursuing her own truth.