April 30, 2017 -- Serial killers don't seem so bad compared with “normal” people in this twisted dark comedy/drama from Paul Verhoeven (“Black Book”). Academy Award-nominated actress Isabelle Huppert (“Amour”) plays Michèle Leblanc, a kinky, but successful video game producer whose father was a famous serial killer.
In an early scene we see Leblanc telling an artist to emphasize the orgasm of an animated female video character who is being violently raped and murdered. The themes of sex and violence permeate the rest of the film. In a later scene, Leblanc herself seems to be having an orgasm while being raped in her home by a masked intruder. She knows the identity of the intruder and even invites him to her Christmas party. If this seems normal to you, perhaps you are the target audience for this film.
This French film seems to be among a number of recent films in which women are victimized by men, like “Nymphomaniac,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Girl on the Train,” and “Twilight,” but, despite being taken advantage of by men, the women are supposedly empowered anyway. It is amazing to me that even some feminists find this sexual power-based emotional jiu jitsu convincing.
In this film, Leblanc is violently raped, but does not report it to the police because of her past experiences with the police. She also seems paradoxically calm after the violent attack. Once she finds out who the rapist is, she forms a unique relationship with him. It is not entirely sadomasochistic, but pretty close to it.
At the same time she is breaking up with the husband of her business partner, after an affair lasting six months or more. In one scene, the cheating husband comments that the sex with Leblanc was great, praising her for playing dead. Pretty funny. While watching a man across the street in binoculars, Leblanc masturbates. There are some nude scenes in this film as well.
Just when you think you've figured out Leblanc's strange behavior, she goes off in different emotional direction. First, you've got Leblanc's unique emotional background to complicate matters. Then you have the fact that she undergoes two additional extremely emotional experiences during the film that I haven't mentioned here. Then there is the unclear role she played in her father's murderous activities just before his arrest. Leblanc is also treated very badly by strangers because of what her father did. All this complicates her emotional journey during the course of this story.
This story is plausible, but what does it really amount to? Leblanc is about as far from a universal relatable character as is possible. What does this story tell us about human behavior, other than that it can be terrible sometimes? Watching some of these people in the film, I got to thinking that maybe Leblanc's serial killer dad wasn't so bad by comparison to other people after all. This film rates a B.
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