Prostitution is one of the oldest professions on the planet. It’s probably one that will never go away no matter how evolved we become as a society. But who exactly is a prostitute? What kind of person becomes one, and what kind of person uses the services of one? Hundreds of years ago, the royal families had courtesans that offered themselves up sexually but were considered privileged because they were afforded opportunities that most women were never allowed like reading and writing. And now even your modern day prostitute may be doing what she does for money to pay for her own education. So does doing something like that make something wrong alright?
Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska, Elles is a film about a woman named Anne (Juliette Binoche) who is a well-off mother of two boys and an investigative journalist for the magazine ELLE. She is currently on assignment writing an article about student prostitution.
The film concentrates primarily on her meetings with two student prostitutes. The first is Alicja (Joanna Kuliq). Alicja came to the country to go to school and from the very beginning she encounters a man who is supposed to provide her with a room to stay with his desire to see her breasts. Her bags are stolen and when some kindness is shown to her, she realizes that it was shown just so that he could sleep with her. He admits that he did so and that most men would have done so as well, and that begins her entry into the world of prostitution.
The other young woman that Anne meets with is Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier). Charlotte is a sweet young woman. She’s slightly shy. And she’s willing to perform fellatio without a condom on strange men. She explains that most of the men that are her clients are just bored husbands and it’s safer with them then with her own boyfriend. She likes the fact that she’s in control.
This film isn’t going to revolutionize the way we see prostitution. But what I did find very fascinating was the fact that it spent time on how these young women got involved in the “business” and how even though each of them knew how easy it was for them to stop, the money and what that money had gotten them was too much of a lure for them to be able to call it quits.
There’s a great scene where Anne is talking with Alicja and she talks about her first time and how she was lucky. This is after we learned that the first man she was with had made her tell him that she loved him, had sex with him, urinated on her, amongst other things. Anne thinks Alicja refers to lucky in that she made it out alright, but that’s not the lucky she has in mind.
The acting was good. Of course Juliette Binoche steals the show, but Anaïs Demoustier and Joanna Kuliq hold their own on screen opposite Binoche. Everyone has good chemistry together.
The film is rated NC-17 and although the subject matter is certainly very much an adult subject matter, I didn’t feel as though the nudity or sex was explicit enough to push it into that taboo rating. Personally I would have released it as “unrated” so as to bring in more of an audience. But, one thing to note is this is not a children’s or teen movie.
Elles is certainly an enjoyable look into the lives of two student prostitutes and the men who use their services. If you walk away from this film and take two things away from it, recognize that you may never know if the men or the women in your life are involved with this type of activity. And if you did know, would it change the way you view them?
FINAL GRADE: B
Reel Film News Movie Review by Bill Ayres