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Anne, a well-off, Paris-based mother of two and investigative journalist for ELLE, is writing an article about student prostitution. Her meetings with two fiercely independent young women, Alicja and Charlotte, are profound and unsettling, moving her to question her most intimate convictions about money, family and sex.
For more about Elles and the Elles Blu-ray release, see Elles Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 14, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Anaïs Demoustier, Joanna Kulig, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Krystyna Janda, Andrzej Chyra
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
» See full cast & crew
Elles Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 14, 2012
Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska's "Elles" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye. The only supplemental feature on the disc is a video interview with the director. In French and Polish, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Juliette Binoche is Anne, a reporter for Elle Magazine who is trying to finish an article on student prostitution in Paris. She lives in a stylish apartment in the heart of the city together with her husband (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), a busy professional, and two sons, one addicted to marijuana, the other to violent video games. Her life is comfortable but lacking excitement.
Anne has arranged to meet two girls who have agreed to discuss their profession as long as she does not mention important details in her article. Alicja (Joanna Kulig) is an international student from Poland who rarely talks to her mother. Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier) is French and unsure if getting a degree is as important as her mother insists.
Anne's conversations with Alicja and Charlotte change her perceptions about a lot of things. She meets Alicja in her hotel room, while Charlotte prefers long walks in the park. The girls openly discuss their clients, typically men with wives and careers, and requests. Some of the requests are strange, other are humiliating. But Alicja and Charlotte do not mind - the money is good and their schedules flexible.
Alicja and Charlotte also tell Anne that they choose the men they sleep with - always - because there are so many of them out there willing to pay for what they cannot get from their wives. The revelation makes Anne wonder about her husband.
The more time Anne spends with the girls, the more she begins to realize that both are a lot like her. They wish to be independent, capable of choosing their priorities, being strong. Though they've had to make sacrifices, sex has allowed them to accomplish their goals. The discussions force Anne to ponder whether she is as open minded as she has believed she is and whether she is as independent as the girls are. As the deadline for the article approaches, Anne breaks two of her own rules.
Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska's Elles will likely suffer the same fate some of Catherine Breillat's films have. Though not as explicit, the film essentially redefines morality in a way that will immediately force some viewers to dismiss it.
Some of the obvious parallels the film draws between prostitution and the sacrifices women must make once they become housewives are intriguing to say the least. This isn't to imply that there is a strong feminist message in it, but Szumowska does present credible arguments which most women will likely agree with.
A few of the sex scenes are slightly more revealing than what is typically shown in mainstream films, but the NC-17 rating Elles received in the United States is a classic example of the MPAA overreacting. In the UK, the film was rated 18.
As usual, Binoche plays her character to perfection. The middle of the film, where she begins to reevaluate some of her perceptions, is where she absolutely shines. The energetic Kulig, who also appeared in Pawel Pawlikowski's moody thriller The Woman in the Fifth, also impresses as the determined to follow her own path in life student.
Elles was lensed by Polish cinematographer Michal Englert, who also assisted Szumowska on her Happy Man (2000), Stranger (2004), and 33 Scenes From Life (2008).
Elles Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.36:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Malgorzata Szumowska's Elles arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Artificial Eye.
Despite some minor fluctuations, mostly during sequences where light is restricted, detail is pleasing. Clarity is adequate, with many of the daylight sequences looking notably sharp. Colors are lush and stable. Warm and natural blues, browns and yellows often fill up the screen. There are no traces of edge-enhancement. However, around the 01:26:07 mark on my disc I noticed a whiff of extremely light pixelation which lasts a couple of seconds. It is not overly distracting, but some viewers will likely notice it. At the moment, I cannot tell if this is something that affects only my screener (not a finished copy). Other than that, the rest of the film looks lovely. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Elles Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French LPCM 2.0 (with portions of Polish). For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 opens up the film exceptionally well in key areas where classical music is used to bridge contrasting sequences. The surrounds are also intelligently used, but the overall dynamic movement is fairly modest. The dialog is crisp, very clear, and easy to follow. There are no pops, cracks, distortions, or audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Elles Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Elles Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Elles is a bold film that offers plenty of food for thought. More than likely some of its observations will split audiences, but most should agree that it is very well made. Excluding a small issue I noticed on my screener, the technical presentation is good. RECOMMENDED.
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