On Paul Verhoeven for the Guardian

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Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert on the set of Elle

Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Huppert on the set of Elle

I’m a big fan of Paul Verhoeven so was happy to write this little piece for the Guardian ahead of the release of his latest, Elle. Like all the best satirists, Verhoeven’s films vex as much as they divert. Elle, starring Isabelle Huppert, is no exception and is released in the UK today.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

Jonathan Swift insisted his intention was not to entertain but to unsettle, “to vex the world rather than divert it”. Today, we have few satirists worth the name, few artists willing – let alone eager – to alienate audiences in order to nudge them into contemplating society’s hypocrisies and their own role in them. One film-maker, however, has made a career out of whipping away the upholstered chair of diversion to leave viewers nursing a butt-hurt sense of vexation: Paul Verhoeven. After a decade’s hiatus, he’s back on the big screen with Elle, a characteristically provocative rape-revenge drama laced with black comedy. And we need him more than ever.

You can read the whole piece here. (Warning: contains rigorous defence of Showgirls.)