Can ‘Elle’ Earn Isabelle Huppert Her First Oscar Nomination?
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So very often the world’s most celebrated actresses never find themselves in the Oscar conversation until something so extraordinary comes along, and with the right distributor and campaign, that they become undeniable. We saw it happen last year with Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years and this year could see French legend Isabelle Huppert (Amour, La séparation) with her very first Academy Award nomination for Elle. The thriller, directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Showgirls), tells the story of Michèle, the head of a video game company who is attacked one night in her home. Taking matters into her own hands, she vows to track her assailant down.
Like Rampling, Isabelle Huppert might not be the most recognizable face for mainstream American audiences. Her work has largely consisted of daring and aggressively brave roles in French films like The Piano Teacher and Ma Mére. She is the most nominated actress ever for the César (the French Oscar) with 15 and won for 1995’s La Cérémonie. She has been the Master of Ceremonies, a jury member and even jury President of the Cannes Film Festival (in 2009) and has won the Actress prize there twice. She could see herself with an unprecedented third win this year with Elle in competition.
Paul Verhoeven has often been a very misunderstood director. In the 90s, his trio of Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Starship Troopers were mercilessly shredded by critics who didn’t understand the feminist and ironic commentary he was trying to make. It essentially black-balled him from Hollywood and his last effort there, Hollow Man (2000), didn’t do anything to change that. He left film making altogether for six years, returning in 2006 with Black Book, a huge critical hit and comeback. But nothing seemed to come of it; he didn’t make another film for another six years and it seemed his fire was all but extinguished. Now he returns with Elle and from all accounts, it’s some of his and Huppert’s career best work. Early French reviews are already saying Huppert gives “the performance of a lifetime” and it’s “Verhoeven at his best.” With Sony Pictures Classics taking the reigns for the film’s US distribution and the studio having already secured two Best Actress Oscar wins this decade, all signs point to a very, very good year for Huppert.
Here is the trailer (slightly NSFW):