Will Paul Verhoeven, director of “Total Recall” and “Basic Instinct,” be making a Hollywood comeback? A French selection committee has chosen Isabelle Huppert-starrer “Elle,” directed by Verhoeven, as France’s candidate in the foreign-language category of next year’s Academy Awards.
The French-language debut of Verhoeven, “Elle” stars Huppert as the head of a top European video games company who is ruthless in business and in love. Brutally raped, she determines to track down the man who did it, as her life threatens to spiral out of control.
“Elle” won out over three other French films on a shortlist comprising Francois Ozon’s black-and-white drama “Frantz,” which won German lead Paula Beer a best young performer award at Venice; Anne Fontaine’s 1945 Poland-set “The Innocents,” which screened at Sundance; and Daniele Thompson’s “Cezanne and I,” the tale of the onetime friendship between painter Paul Cezanne and author Emile Zola.
Chaired by CNC National Cinema Center head Frederique Bredin, the selection committee was made up of Cannes Festival head Thierry Fremaux, actresses Sandrine Bonnaire and Lea Seydoux (“Spectre”), Unifrance president Jean-Paul Salome, French Academy president Alain Terzain, “The Intouchables” co-director Eric Toledano and French publisher Teresa Cremisi.
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A foreign-language Oscar nomination for “Elle” would feel like vindication for its makers after the film garnered some of the best reviews of any competition title at Cannes in May but went home nearly empty-handed.
The Variety review called the movie “a possible career high” for Verhoeven, describing the film as “knowingly incendiary but remarkably cool-headed, and built around yet another of Isabelle Huppert’s staggering psychological dissections.”
Sony Pictures Classics, which has nursed multiple titles over decades to foreign-language Academy Award glory, has acquired U.S. distribution rights.