Turn off the lights and let the horror begin.
Paul Verhoeven’s new film Elle is an outrageous black comedy – volatile and deadly – a film that opens up with a sexual assault and then cleans off the blood ahead of a posh restaurant dinner.
‘I suppose I was raped’ Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) casually remarks to her friends – just as the waiter swoops in with a magnum of champagne.
A guest at the table flicks a nervous glance at the bottle.
He says ‘Maybe wait a few minutes before popping that’.
Likewise one perhaps needs to pause before trumpeting Elle as one of the best pictures in this year’s Cannes competition – if only because its implications are so problematic they require more time to be processed.
But there’s no denying that in the moment at least the film is utterly gripping and endlessly disturbing.
In carving a hazardous path through hackneyed genre territory Elle never flags – barely stumbles.
Verhoeven I fear is pointing his film straight to Hell.
He brazenly dares us to stick with him for the ride.