Feb 21, 2019

Elle




Out of all the filmmakers I can think of, no other has probably made a more successful transition from the European arthouse world to Hollywood than Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct). In fact, Verhoeven has even been able to maintain his distinctly Dutch, subtly yet scathingly sardonic sense of humor as demonstrated by the fact that the satire of Showgirls (1995) flew over the heads of so many American viewers, including the NYC intellectuals, and it was wrongly labeled one of the worst movies ever made. Admittedly, I still prefer the auteur’s early Dutch classics like Turkish Delight (1973), Spetters (1980), and The Fourth Man (1983 to most of his Hollywood films, so naturally I was initially excited when he returned to European filmmaking after almost two decades. Unfortunately, Black Book (2006)—a Zionist-friendly turd that has too much of a shallow Hollywood polish for my tastes—was quite inferior to Verhoeven’s previous German occupation themed WWII flick Soldier of Orange (1977), which quite rightly focuses on the Dutch instead of the Jews. Luckily, Verhoeven did finally return to his true roots with the French-German co-production Elle (2016) starring redheaded mischling diva Isabelle Huppert in a role that feels like she was born to play, as if she is portraying the less autistic and more aggressive Paris sister of her character from Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher (2001). While the film is provocatively entertaining as one would expect from a Verhoeven flick, it is far from a feel-good flick and, quite unlike Robocop (1987), not something I feel the need to revisit anytime seen, especially after watching it twice. Indeed, while on the superficial level it is a sort of unconventional rape-revenge dramedy where a supremely fucked up bourgeois bitch refuses to be a victim after suffering a rather violent episode of sexual rapine and ultimately demonstrates that it takes an insanely impenetrable ice queen to accomplish that task when rape and murder are involved, the film is also a sort of borderline absurdist allegory for the death of Europe, especially the culturally and spiritually senile European bourgeoisie.

 Set in a decidedly dysfunctional and decadent world of mostly disgustingly weak and emasculated men and soulless sex-obsessed women, the film effortlessly critiques everything that is innately repugnant and insufferably pathetic about modern Europe, especially France. Undoubtedly, Jean Cocteau might as well have been speaking about Elle when he once wrote in regard to his masterpiece Orpheus (1950), “Our age is becoming dried out with ideas. It is the child of the Encyclopedists. But having an idea is not enough: the idea must have us, haunt us, obsess us, become unbearable to us.” While maintaining a mirthfully cynical and darkly humorous tone, the film is unequivocally haunting, as if Verhoeven wanted to make sure the price of admission for experiencing Isabelle Huppert being raped is nothing less than the perpetual rape of the viewer’s soul. Based on the novel Oh... (2012) by Philippe Djian—a Parisian racial outsider of mixed Algerian Jewish stock that is probably best known among cinephiles for writing the novel that acted as the basis for Jean-Jacques Beineix’s hardly-female-friendly 37° 2 le matin (1986) aka Betty Blue—the film also takes a somewhat subtle yet thankfully pleasantly politically correct approach to race relations. Indeed, aside from the heroine’s son being literally cuckolded by his negro friend in an absurdly nightmarish manner that results in the Huppert's character becoming the stunned ‘grandmother’ of a mulatto baby, the rapist villain—a suave and successful yet seemingly sociopathic banker—is ambiguously Jewish (in fact, English subtitles were curiously changed to obscure this fact in European releases of the film). 




 Undoubtedly, the somewhat annoying brilliance of Elle is that the (anti)heroine Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a uniquely unlikable ice queen that is so insanely impenetrable that it is hard to feel sorry for her when she is raped, especially considering that her cunt is so cold it is hard to imagine any man, no matter how aggressively virile and assertive, could violently shove his member in her seemingly frosty flesh cave. In fact, Verhoeven cleverly opens the film with the rape before we even get to know her character, as if the auteur wanted to deconstruct the viewer's sympathy for Michèle as the film progresses.  In many ways, the film feels like a sort of post-feminist female fantasy as Michèle is a totally ‘independent’ woman that not only dictates over a ‘hip’ and ‘sexy’ videogame company staffed with largely attractive young men, but she also wields power over her adult son and even ex-husband, thereupon making the rape the one single instance in her life where she did not have total control over a male. Also, rather revealing, the heroine is shocked to eventually discover after chasing various red herrings that the married neighbor she lusts after (she even diddles herself while voyeuristically gazing at him via an upstairs window), Patrick (Laurent Lafitte)—a swarthy yet handsome young banker—is actually her rapist. Notably, instead of turning Patrick into the police, Michèle begins a somewhat short-lived sadomasochistic sexual relationship with him where violent rape is ‘simulated,’ at least until her cuckold son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) bashes his brains in upon unwittingly walking in on one of their aberrant erotic episodes. As to whether or not Michèle intentionally gets Patrick killed is questionable (after all, she knew her son was home and also threatened to turn the rapist in), but she certainly does not shed a tear for her lunatic lover after he croaks under rather brutal circumstances.

As can be expected from a seriously screwed up broad that regularly nonchalantly uses men as emotional punching bags because she has strategically acquired the monetary means to do so, Michèle has virtually demonic daddy issues due to the fact that she played a not-all-that-passive role at the mere age of ten in a massacre that her father carried out in the neighborhood that resulted in the death of no less than 27 children and adults and various cats and dogs. Needless to say, when Michèle’s elderly imprisoned father is in news headlines again because he faces the possibility of parole, it adds an extra layer of paranoia to her life (after all, she even suspects her rape might be related to this). Luckily for her, by the end of Elle the titular twat has every single man in her life exactly where she wants them, including both her father and rapist dead. Needless to say, Michèle has an unspoken innate disgust of the patriarchy, but her matriarchal world is a morbid and morose mess of emasculated manginas, familial degeneration, and all-around emotionally-excruciating estrogen-driven dysfunction.  Aside from the loser males in her family, Michèle is especially ashamed of her mother Irène (Judith Magre), who is a deeply narcissistic wanton old whore that proudly flaunts around a quasi-gigolo (Raphaël Lenglet) boyfriend that is young enough to be her grandson.  In fact, the heroine hates her mother so much that when the old lady suffers a major stroke and goes into a deep coma, Michèle refuses to believe it and even asks a doctor if there is some way that her slutty old slag mommy might be faking it.  Seemingly both jealous and disgusted by her mother's antics and arguably attracted to a rapist because of childhood traumas related to her father, Michèle suffers from what might be best described as the most warped (anti)Electra complex ever depicted in cinema history.

Of course, as the film hints throughout, Michèle’s strength is nothing more than an impenetrable shield that was put up long ago when she learned to distrust men after her father’s murder spree and was forced to fend for herself. Undoubtedly, the film certainly demonstrates that the heroine has more than a little curiosity when it comes to a man that—for the first time in her fucked up life—completely physically dominates her and then takes her by force sexually. Needless to say, as a woman that refuses to defer power to any man, including an ex-husband that she still seems to love, she cannot let it last forever. 




 Notably, in a 1995 essay entitled Showgirls: Portrait of a Film, Verhoeven wrote, “This theme of redemption is part of American mythology. American movies are filled with these fairly tales in which everything comes out right and everybody goes to the seashore. It is an illusion that is supported by the whole culture, and is probably part of the larger unwillingness to look at unpleasant realities.” While maintaining a savagely charming sort of addictively digestible cynicism, Elle not only basks in the unpleasant realities of the sexual dysfunction and cultural senility that plagues modern-day France in a manner that is oftentimes Rabelaisian, but it also makes a mockery out of the very idea of redemption, even if the film ends in a fashion that some misguided (feminist) types might interpret as redemptive as the heroine as she is irredeemably damaged and learns nothing from her exceedingly nightmarish experiences aside from further embracing her own warped form of gynocentrism where she figuratively carries around her son and ex-husband’s testicles around in her purse via economic dependence. Instead of finding the security of a man in the end that saves her life and/or avenges her honor as one might expect from a film with similar themes, Michèle leads her already psychologically feeble son into becoming a murderer by going on a decidedly dangerous path that involves a ‘voluntery’ sexual relationship with the very man that brutally raped her.

 In short, Michèle is arguably just as hopelessly unhinged and sexually sick as her rapist who, like herself, is a successful professional that largely gets by in life by wearing a mask of sanity. The daughter of a sociopathic mass murder, she seems to see her rape as less of a traumatic event than a great challenge where she can test her (both literal and figurative) pussy prowess against a man that is, quite unlike her ex-husband, a worthy adversary, thereupon going from prey to the ultimate predator. In that sense, it is no coincidence that a cat watches on with a soulless stare as Michèle is raped at the very beginning of the film as if the feline is the heroine herself coldly sizing up the strength of her enemy so as to adequately dispose of him later. While it is insinuated in the film that Michèle does not report the rape to the police because of the embarrassment that goes with being the daughter of an infamous mass murderer, it is really probably so that she can bide her time until she can eventually take matters into her own hands without getting in trouble with the law (after all, when the police question her after Patrick is killed, Michèle neglects to mention the previous rape or anything else related to it). Like a textbook sociopath, Michèle lacks empathy and merely sees people as things to be manipulated for personal gain. In the end, she even manages to manipulate her rapist—the one man that was able to control her, at least for a couple minutes—into complete and eternal submission.   Notably, in a rather telling scene in the film, Michèle randomly acknowledges to a black nurse that she lacks any sort of maternal instincts, even stating in regard to her own son, “Sometimes I look at Vincent, the big lout with nothing special about him that came out of my belly, and I have to admit I don’t know him.”  Of course, it is arguable as to whether or not Michèle really knows anyone, though it does seem that her rapist is a sort of kindred spirit as a fellow member of the cryptically unhinged bourgeoisie.




 While it is easy to criticize (anti)heroine Michèle since she is a soulless bitch that, among other things, carries on a totally pointless one-sided affair with the husband of her sole true friend Anna (Anne Consigny)—a woman with a heart of gold that acts more like a mother to the heroine's son than the heroine—she cannot be completely blamed for the sick emasculated world that has led to her professional success and the abject failure of all the men in her life.  Indeed, as French New Right theorist Guillaume Faye argues in his book Sexe et Dévoiement (2011) aka Sex and Deviance, “But in reality, women are in no way responsible for the emasculation of men. One may suppose instead that feminism (which appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century) is not only a reaction to the traditional devaluing and inferiorising of women but, today above all, a response to this emasculation of men […] The emasculation of young men of European origin is flagrant in France. What is more, since the 1970s, girls have been performing better in school, working harder, and taking their studies more seriously than boys. Zemmour rightly critizes the effeminancy of social values, centered on protection, assistance, mothering, humanitarianism—ideals which, moreover, serve to compensate for the reality of a society increasingly shaken by a new pauperism, and by constantly rising criminality and insecurity, by barbarization, and by neo-primitivism. But things cannot be decreed: if men (and with them, social values) are emasculated, it is their own fault. Women are merely filling the vacuum, taking the place men have abdicated. Besides, many historical episodes (that of Joan of Arc being the most famous) show that women always tend to make up for the failures of men, replacing them.” I do not think it is a mere coincidence that Michèle’s father’s massacre was, according to the protagonist herself, sparked by his neighbors rebuking him for having their children take part in a Catholic ritual. Undoubtedly, this monstrous mass murder spree, which took place in 1976—almost a decade after the so-called May 1968 events and counterculture movement inspired a complete social and sexual change in France—is symbolic of a sort of apocalyptic Last Gasp of traditional French Catholic values. While true patriarchy is what led France to becoming one of the greatest civilizations and empires in all of human history, most people have amnesia when it comes to history and can only associate it with radnom negative things like Michèle’s father’s murder (just as leftists and feminists associate it with only slavery, misogyny, and war today). Of course, without patriarchy, society produces weak males like Michèle’s son and ex-husband and I doubt anyone truly believes such ‘men’ are superior to those of the past. While he’s not exactly my sort of writer, I think most people can agree that G. Michael Hopf was quite right when he wrote, “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” 



 While rape-and-revenge films are certainly nothing new, Elle is so much different from such films that it would largely be a grave disservice to associate it with the (largely exploitation oriented) sub-genre. Indeed, instead of being a film where a chick gets raped, temporarily mentally deteriorates, and then somehow magically becomes a ‘bad ass’ killing machine that literally and/or figuratively castrates her attackers, Verhoeven’s film features a cold and calculated cunt who is sharp enough that she need not even bother to even kill her rapist herself as ‘consensual’ sex with him seems to be her greatest award in terms of her warped sense of female empowerment. While she might be living the feminist dream, Michèle does not feel the need to advertise her feministic tendencies like that total twat Lisbeth Salander from the absolutely atrocious crypto-commie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise. Additionally, despite buying a gun and other weapons, Michèle does not become homicidally hysterical in a self-destructive fashion like Zoë Tamerlis Lund’s iconic titular character in Abel Ferrara’s cult classic Ms .45 (1981). Rather brilliantly, Verhoeven deprives the viewer of the sort of visceral animalistic satisfaction that is so typical of rape-and-revenge films, as if to point out the innate stupidity, phoniness, and hypocrisy of the sub-genre. While the rapist is indeed killed, his death is almost as shockingly brutal as the rape he committed, thereupon leaving the viewer defiled (or ‘raped’) in both instances in what can be interpreted as some sort of ironical anti-violence message. In a soulless world where people tend to get shocked by very little of anything, it is no surprise such inhumane savagery is approached in such a ‘nonchalant’ fashion, as if Verhoeven resolved to have the viewer question their own (in)humanity without even necessarily being completely conscious of it. Either way, there is no question that the rape is a metaphor for a bigger and more important theme. 



 While it is not exactly a subtle example of symbolism, it is surely fitting, especially considering contemporary events, that the rapist is an unrepentant banker that seems rather cynicism about his wife's strict devotion to Catholicism. In short, he represents everything that is corrupt, degenerative, and ultimately necrotic about the multiculti farce that is modern France. Indeed, it is no coincidence that French Republican politician Fabien Di Filippo referred to corrupt President of France Emmanuel Macron as “President Rothschild” in late 2018 as he is symptom of such decay that originates centuries ago with the Jewish Rothschild banking dynasty. It also seems fitting that the film was made shortly after International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Dominique Strauss-Kahn—a Ashkenazi-Sephardi Jewish hybrid and socialist politician that was originally considered to be a leading candidate for the 2012 French Presidency—was accused of sexual assault and attempted rape against a black maid. Interestingly, in an article at the Jewish news website The Forward, Jewess Phoebe Maltz Bovy noted at the end of her review of Elle, “Oh, and one more pressing question: Is Patrick Jewish? Michèle briefly suspects a coworker of the assault, and asks him to drop trou, explaining that she’d assumed this coworker was Jewish (he’s not) and that the man she’s trying to locate is circumcised. We don’t know much about Patrick other than that he’s a banker and that he, unlike his wife, isn’t a devout Catholic. Is the evil sadistic rapist banker – like so many bankers in French literature, for example – a Jew? If so, if that’s even ambiguous, this would just add another whole layer of problematic-fave.” I’m going to wager that Patrick is Jewish and that the film cannot be fully appreciated without this being taken into consideration, especially considering recent historical events in France (e.g. Strauss-Kahn) and the western world in generation (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, who was a well known sexual predator long before he was ever officially busted). After all, as Larry David (in)famously stated during a 2017 SNL monologue, “A lot of sexual harassment stuff in the news, and I couldn't help but notice a very disturbing pattern emerging, which is that many of the predators, not all, but many of them are Jews.” Also, I don’t know much about the film’s source writer Philippe Djian as English-language material on him is very limited, but his schizophrenic lineage as the son of a rootless Algerian Jewish father and a reactionary Catholic mother and early love of great antisemitic novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline is certainly keeping within the greater themes of Verhoeven's film.  It should also be noted that Djian found the May 1968 events in France as something he was not particularly impressed with as he even went so far as to describe it as simply a time where “there were many girls in the streets” and “everyone seemed a little crazy.”  Clearly, Elle depicts the longtime societal rotten fruits of May 1968, though not a single film critic seems willing to even consider that.




 Undoubtedly, the connection between Jewishness and decline of the sexes as depicted in Elle was surely highlighted over a century ago by Otto Weininger, who felt Jewishness and femininity were one and the same, in his classic text Geschlecht und Charakter (1903) aka Sex and Character where he argued, “Our age is not only Jewish, but also the most ‘feminine’; an age in which art represents only a sudarium of its humors; the age of the most gullible anarchism, without any understanding of the State and of justice; the age of the collectivist ethics of the species; the age in which history is viewed with the most astonishing lack of seriousness [historical materialism]; the age of capitalism and of Marxism; the age in which history, life, and science no longer mean anything, apart from economics and technology; the age when genius could be declared a form of madness, while it no longer possesses even one great artist or philosopher; the age of the least originality and its greatest pursuit; the age which can boast of being the first to have exalted eroticism, but not in order to forget oneself, the way the Romans or the Greeks did in their Bacchanalia, but in order to have the illusion of rediscovering oneself and giving substance to one’s vanity.” Interestingly, the lack of originality that Weininger speaks of is brought up by Michèle’s ex-husband Richard, himself a failed writer and exceedingly emasculated man, who soundly argues, “People don’t realize the art muscle needs training. Or else culture collapses, goes flabby. That’s what we’ve got now. Flabby culture. Originality or singularity used to be valued and sought after. Or even an end in itself. Now it’s a liability. I’m not talking about novelty.” In that sense, Elle is not just an entertaining and expertly executed film, but also a cinematic attack against modernity, even if it is also somewhat contaminated with the metaphysical affliction. 



 The Jewish angle of Elle also becomes more obvious when one reads the hysterical The New Yorker review written by neo-judeo-bolshevik critic Richard Brody—a Claude ‘Shoah’ Lanzmann fanboy who dedicated a good portion of his bio Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard (2008) to attempting to prove that Godard is an antisemite—where he demonstrates a visceral hatred for Verhoeven by completely misrepresenting the director’s film Black Book and unsoundly arguing, “Let’s imagine a remake of SCHINDLER’S LIST in which a Jewish woman, while in a group herded naked into a gas chamber that turns out to be a shower, notices one S.S. officer, finds him thrillingly handsome, and, when she meets him—oh, wait, something like it already exists. Verhoeven made it in 2006, and it’s called BLACK BOOK.” After attempting to paint Verhoeven as a sort of perverted crypto-antisemite at the beginning of his review despite the fact that Black Book has an obvious pro-Zionist message, Brody—a failed one-time filmmaker that, rather curiously, directed a film that no one has ever seen entitled Liability Crisis (1995) that rather revealingly involves a Jewish female documentarian whose obsession with the holocaust/Hitler spells disaster for her sex life—reveals that he has completely missed any message the film was trying to convey and instead cravenly resorts to accusing Verhoeven of being a sort of poser feminist, arguing, “Throughout the film, Verhoeven gives the impression of laughing up his sleeve at Michèle’s predicament as well as at her predilection, as if he were getting away with telling a sexist joke in a speech at a feminist convention. ELLE is no exploration of a woman’s life or psyche but a macho fantasy adorned with the trappings of liberation.” Of course, as someone that used the most absurd out-of-context circumstantial evidence to try to prove Godard is an evil antisemite, it is hard to imagine that Brody would miss the crucial (anti)kosher elements of Elle, though it could also be argued that he subconsciously became aware of the counter-kosher angle of the film and merely used his review as a means to (poorly) rationalize his potentially instinctual reaction. Either way, Brody’s Elle review reveals he knows nil about women and that the world could really benefit from less male feminists; be they Jewish or otherwise. 



Aside from the obvious symbolic racial-political reasons as to why the rapist in Elle is also a successful banker, the character also represents a sort dichotomous representation of masculinity as underscored by Camille Paglia’s wise words from Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), “Serial or sex murder, like fetishism, is a perversion of male intelligence. It is a criminal abstraction, masculine in its deranged egoism and orderliness. It is the asocial equivalent of philosophy, mathematics and music. There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.” In fact, Weininger felt criminality was quite common in great men of history and he even went so far as to argue that France’s most legendary statesman and military leader Napoléon Bonaparte—a man who, incidentally, was the first to emancipate Jews in France and Europe in general—was driven to glory by criminal tendencies, stating, “Napoleon, the greatest of the conquerors, is a sufficient proof that great men of action are criminals, and therefore, not geniuses. One can understand him by thinking of the tremendous intensity with which he tried to escape from himself. There is this element in all the conquerors, great or small. Just because he had great gifts, greater than those of any emperor before him, he had greater difficulty in stifling the disapproving voice within him. The motive of his ambition was the craving to stifle his better self.” It can be argued that the anti-heroine of Elle sees her rapist as her sort of erotic Napoleon as that rare no-bullshit alpha-male that, not unlike her mass murder father and quite unlike her meek beta ex-husband and son, has the gall to take what he wants whilst completing ignoring the laws and conventions of polite society. Of course, this also explains the female obsession with serial killers as exemplified recently by the unending media headlines in regard to the Netflix docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019) and the Jewish director Joe Berlinger’s accompanying biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (2019) starring perennial frat-boy mischling Zac Efron as bad boy Bundy. On a more personal level, I used to be friends with a German-American chick that was pen pals with mestizo serial killer Richard Ramirez and it soon became apparent to me after a fleeting sexual excursion that her main interest in me was due to my ‘unconventional’ Weltanschauung, as if it got her wet to know that I sported a Death In June t-shirt and didn’t think the Allies were the good guys during WWII. 


Apparently, New Line Cinema founder Robert Shaye—a man that made himself very rich with the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise—once stated, “A black humor approach to filmmaking helps to diffuse the potential for offensiveness.” Undoubtedly, few other films validate this statement more than Elle where Verhoeven—arguably foremost master to this oftentimes cynical cinematic approach—demonstrates his singular talent for refined Rabelaisian satire where he manages to make the most uniquely uncomfortable of situations endlessly palatable in a manner comparable to disguising rancid maggot-ridden dog shit as Godiva Chocolatier. Indeed, the film does the seemingly impossible by making the European racial-sexual apocalypse seem entertaining, like when great Romanian pessimist Emil Cioran, himself a student of Weininger, once hilariously yet nonchalantly described his adopted hometown of Paris as an “apocalyptic garage” in the documentary Apocalypse According to Cioran (1995) directed by Gabriel Liiceanu.  Undoubtedly, like much of Verhoeven's films, Elle is less a celebration of Occidental decline than a bitingly sassy and sophisticated reminder of it.  In that sense, it is no surprise that the very last scene of the film features the heroine and her best friend Anna walking through a graveyard after bonding over insulting men together, as if to simply let the viewer know that the man-hunting cunts are carelessly walking on the corpse of Western Civilization and that they only have the utmost contempt for the long dead white men that were responsible for building said corpse that they are still unwittingly feeding off of.  After all, whether conscious of it or not, these women blame white men for their current lot and, as they say: “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.”

As to the value of a film like Elle that criticizes decadence while also curiously embracing it, one must take heed of Cioran's wise words from the nihilistic classic A Short History of Decay (1949), “The mistake of those who apprehend decadence is to try to oppose it whereas it must be encouraged: by developing it exhausts itself and permits the advent of other forms. The true harbinger is not the man who offers a system when no one wants it, but rather the man who precipitates Chaos, its agent and incense-bearer. It is vulgar to trumpet dogmas in extenuated ages when any dream of the future seems a dream or an imposture. To make for the end of time with a flower in one's buttonhole—the sole comportment worthy of us in time's passage. A pity there is no such thing as a Last Judgement, no occasion for a great defiance! Believers: hamfatters of eternity; faith: craving for a timeless stage. . . . But we unbelievers, we die with our decors, and too tired out to deceive ourselves with blazonry promised to our corpses.”



-Ty E

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