Monday, 15 April 2013

Elles, dir. Małgorzata Szumowska, wr. Małgorzata Szumowska, Tine Byrckel, st. Juliette Binoche, Joanna Kulig, Anaïs Demoustier

In Małgorzata Szumowska's mildly intriguing Elles, Binoche plays much the same kind of ennui-afflicted middle-class housewife she did in Michael Haneke's Caché and the film actually unfolds in much the same way too, with scenes of routine urban domesticity intercut with more unnerving narrative. Binoche plays Anne, a journalist whose interviews with Charlotte (Demoustier) and Alicja (Kulig), two ordinary young women who've chosen a career in the sex industry, are told in flashback. As the deadline to her article looms and her indifferent husband and difficult teenage boys' presence bear down on her, she loses herself in her subjects' libertarian and carefree approach to sex and sexuality, never truly knowing (like us) if she's fascinated, aroused, repulsed, or a little of all three. Professionals losing themselves in their subject matter is a well-worn trope most often seen in steamy Noiry potboilers in which cops fall for the only viable fatale femme around, but applied here, there's a point (albeit a blurry one) to be made about the desire for abandoned escapism as a liniment for the mundanity of modern marriage. Alas, in its need to show rather than to tell, there's a distinct lack of drive in Elles that makes it hard to engage with the subject matter. Binoche would be captivatingly watchable filling a hot water bottle for two hours, but even she can't enable the movie to evoke in its audience the kind of heart-skipping eroticism that Anne finds so alluring.