By Hemanth Kissoon
“Just promise me tonight you won’t say your feminist stuff,” Patrick (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) to his wife, Anne (Juliette Binoche).
Opening with a guy receiving oral sex, it cuts to journalist Anne listening to an interview. A prostitute is talking. Anne is writing an article about two students who moonlight to pay the bills. We quickly get the disconnect between the two worlds with a square on shot of Anne’s striking living room – at first the film seems to be an economic commentary; but actually the narrative is looking at female sexuality, power and mistreatment. Just before the end credits rolled, I was livid, feeling that ELLES was exploitative, and ready to condemn on that ground. Then I saw a woman made it. There was one disturbing juxtaposition for example: Anaïs Demoustier’s Charlotte recounts, and we see, her molestation by one client, and immediately after Anne is on her bathroom floor masturbating. My thoughts towards the film have continually wrestled as to whether I buy into the character’s reactions to what she uncovers. Having discussed the themes with a female colleague and allowed the ideas portrayed to be digested, I am more impressed by ELLES; it shows manhandling, which is upsetting, while being extremely engaging, and on one level has three very attractive women grappling with their own desires. Anne’s home-life is particularly thorny, with her neglectful husband and obnoxious sons. The more I think about ELLES, the more I like it.