ISABELLE HUPPERT AS MICHELE. PHOTO: GUY FERRANDIS/SBS PRODUCTIONS COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS.
If Paul Verhoeven has already proven himself a master of psychosexual cinema with 1992’s Basic Instinct, the Dutch provocateur’s first film in a decade, Elle, in theaters this month, pushes his preoccupation with perversity to astonishing new heights. Isabelle Huppert stars as Michèle, a steely CEO of a video game company, who is raped in her Parisian mansion by a masked intruder. Her quest to avenge her attack, which pivots into paranoia, Hitchcockian voyeurism, and sadomasochistic games, is a cerebral whodunit with blacker-than-black comic tones, and a complex, contentious study of a one-of-a-kind heroine. Huppert makes her an unforgettable one.