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  • Elles
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"Elles" (2011 release from France; 96 min.) brings two parallel stories. In the first one, we meet Anne (played by Juliette Binoche), a reporter for the renowed French fashion and lifestyle magazine "Elle". Anne is writing an article on escort services provided by young women at university in Paris. The article focues on two such women: there is the timid Charlotte (played by Anais Demoustier), and there is also the more brash Alicja (played by Joanna Kulig), a Polish student who has emigrated to Paris for her studies. The second story line centers around Anne's family: her husband and her two sons. Everyone in the family seems to be in their own little world and Anne feels frustrated and boxed in. The movie plays out over the course of a single day (but with flashbacks) as Anne is trying to finish her article for Elle, and is also preparing for a dinner she and her husband are hosting that evening for his boss.

Several comments: I realize that the movie is titled "Elles" as a wordplay on both the magazine and the two young women we get to know ("Elles" is the French female plural for "they"), but this is doing a disservice to the movie. Why? Because as it turns out the movie pays more attention to, and is far more effective as an analysis of, Anne's crumbling marriage than it does to the economic and emotional circumstances of the two young women. The last third of the movie barely touches on the fate of the young women, and hence my suggested retitling of the movie. That said, the acting performances of the three leading ladies are all noteworthy.

The movie is a co-production between a number of various French and Polish resources. In fact I don't recall having seen so many different "supporting" and "participating" groups in a single movie (maybe as many as 15!). The movie is directed by an up-and-coming Polish director, Malgorzata Szumowska, and I look forward to seeming what she will do next. Bottom line: this movie is MUCH better than some of the negative reviews here might lead you to believe. If you are in the mood for a quality foreign movie that is miles away from your standard Hollywood fare, you will not be disappointed with "Elles".
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on January 13, 2013
Elles is a serious look at a specific aspect of modern day romantic life in the age of the internet and cellphones. Juliette Binoche stars as a writer for Elle magazine researching (she thinks) an article on young college-age women who offer their services to men in order to obtain the money they need to live as something better than a starving student. Binoche's character starts out aloof and almost sneering, with the stereotypical attitude the general public has towards these women, but as she gets to know them better she gets drawn to them and into their world, letting down her journalist's guard. What elevates Elles far above a mere fictionalized documentary movie is when Binoche's character realizes that she is already part of this world. Aside from one scene in which a character gets assaulted (which is most likely a fantasy, although it is not entirely clear), there are no real victims or perpetrators in Elles. It is just what consenting adults do to satisfy their needs and survive the stresses of modern day life.

The centerpiece of Elles by far is Juliette Binoche's character, and she gives a star performance. Her character is not terribly attractive, and her face often shows the stresses of the life she leads as a busy working mom, but that is as it should be. She is most appealing when she lets her hair down by getting tipsy with one of her interview subjects, and that scene is a pure joy. The two college students, played by Anais Demoustier and Joanna Kulig, are near opposites in personality, body type and hair color, but each actress gives an intimately revealing portrayal. The men and boys in Elles have much more minor roles, but are well played. The casting and acting are spot-on, and speak to the care with which Elles was obviously made. If this film ever gets remade as an American film with American actors, I doubt it will be anywhere near as good.

The only thing that prevents me from giving Elles five stars is that it tries to do a bit much in a short amount of time. There are many scenes and many significant events which rush forward to an ultimately satisfying conclusion. I feel the film could have benefited from a slightly more languorous pace, which would have allowed time to more fully explore everything that happens.

Elles is highly recommended for adults who aren't afraid to look behind the facade.
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on March 12, 2013
When you think about prostitution, what usually comes to mind are the ladies in the street or the so-called bordellos (for rich and poor). But, in the changing world, prostitution keeps evolving due to many reasons, one being our current economies. Not everybody is competitive, and, sadly, some go into this profession as an act of desperation, curiosity, or other reasons. "Elles" is a fascinating and gripping film that explores these issues in a dramatic and intriguing way.

Anne (Juliette Binoche) is apparently a happily-married journalist, who is writing an article about Paris' students for Elle magazine. She struggles doing chores at home, including raising a teenage son and a smaller daughter, and doing research for her book. This research involves spending time and interviewing two young college students (Joanna Kulig and Anaïs Demoustier), who, for different reasons, moonlight as prostitutes. The descriptions of their sexual duties are very graphic, and it involves several types of men - mostly married --, who have the most bizarre requests. This assignment slowly affects Anne's psyche and personal life, forcing her to make some serious decisions.

Directed by Malgoska Szumowska, "Elles" is another movie that shows us aspects of our daily life that people are not aware of or simply ignore. Student prostitution is a sign of the times, not only in France, but in other places, including the USA. The film, as I say, is kind of graphic in the frank depiction of sex and sexual preferences, including a good dose of nudity. The Blu-ray includes edited and unedited trailers and more. (France, Poland, Germany; 2011, color, 99 min plus additional material)

Reviewed on March 12, 2013 by Eric Gonzalez for Kino Lorber Blu-ray
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on November 9, 2012
She's courageous not because of the masturbation scene, obviously, this anyone can do nowadays, no more courage than to brush one's teeth on screen.

Binoche is courageous because she's not afraid to appear on screen almost naked, and act frankly, darkly her own age.

This film is not great, but it's well shot, serious and not moralistic.

Good movie, 4 stars.
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on February 3, 2013
I enjoyed this movie and have watched 2-3 times in the past 3 months or so. Suggest you consult "bluRay.com" for a professional review of its contents, technical visual and sound quality. In short, not for someone looking solely for sexual thrills but rather for one who seeks a serious plot with a few very sexually charged scenes ..all in context of the plot.
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on October 7, 2012
This movie presents the lives of some students that struggle to have the life they want in the middle of a wealthy society. They are presented with the options of a hard life doing waitressing or boring jobs getting a pay that does not allow them to build their life, or to render their services to men that are willing to reward them in more ways than money can do. This is a hard thing to present in front of our hard coded values. It is the difference between being exposed to landlords that want to abuse them for no pay, to live in unsafe neighbourhoods or to explore other avenues. All of this for a woman (Juliette Binoche) that feels neglected by her husband, overwhelmed by her housewife duties and at the same time producing an article for a magazine the famous Elle magazine about students that become call girls. Confronting this reality and her own boredom, frustration and sadness makes her reevaluate her life and her options. The end shows something that maybe is not what we want but many times it becomes what it is. The movie is very well acted and directed and addresses these very difficult topics in a caring way. I may disturb some people as some views may show a reality that some may not want to see.
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on November 6, 2012
Bored housewife, unappreciated by her husband etc. interviews two student prostitutes, gets intrigued and then turned-on by their seemingly more exciting, more liberated lifestyle. Lots and lots of questioning looks and smiling between the interviewer and interviewees and... that's about it. No real exploration of the realities of these girls' lives, or their clients, a couple of fairly graphic but unerotic scenes and huge amount of well worn cliches. All explored before in the equally insipid, superficial and cliched Belle de Jour. The issues it raises are interesting but, like Belle de Jour, it delivers no answers and the real question is what on earth is Juliette Binoche doing in such a boring and pointless film? A waste of her and your time.
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on May 8, 2014
Somehow french films usually do not have a happy ending no matter what. They are more inclined to be about a reality in their society and life in general. They usually expose the more sordid and sad aspects of their society . Great acting and good subject to expose. Juliette Binoche as usual is a great actress.
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on April 28, 2013
A coming of age movie for french ladies of the night and day. Not really any unique twists of plot or academy award winning performances for the best organism. But, if you haven't been to Paris in the spring, summer, fall, etc., this is worth watching if you don't have anything else to do.
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on December 14, 2013
Banal story.Can anyone tell me what this film is about? Unfortunately, Binoche is gone...as an actress I mean... But she is still one of my favorites. Will be patiently awaiting for the new role of the great actress on the big screen.
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