Elles-DVDThis French/Polish erotic drama centers around an investigative journalist writing an article on student prostitution for Elle magazine.

Juliette Binoche coldly portrays Anne: mother, housewife and work-obsessed journalist. In this “day-in-the-life-of” she is nearing the completion of her piece focusing on two university students working as part-time prostitutes to help pay their way through school. As she goes about her daily routine, preparing a meal for her husband’s boss that evening and putting the finishing touches on her article, she continually flashes back to her interview sessions with the girls.

Both are from vastly different backgrounds. Lola is French middle-class with a loving family, Alicja (Joanna Kulig, who was actually featured on the cover of Polish Elle mag this year) is a Polish immigrant with nothing to fall back on but her body for currency. As they tell their tales of various encounters with clients with seeming indifference we are treated to often explicit reenactments, perhaps occurring in Anne’s imagination. At first she is taken back by how nonchalant these young girls are about selling themselves to married men twice their age, but slowly she comes around to their world-view and begins to question her own values and morals.

The roles and stories of the prostitutes are partially based on the testimonies of legitimate hookers director Malgorzata Szumowska met and interviewed as background for the film. Her fantastic visual use of mirrors in various scenes perfectly illustrates the double life/split personality employed by all the characters within.

Overall, the film is fairly slow-paced and uneventful but it’s Binoche who holds it all together with her usual finesse; witnessing her character of Anne gradually slip into sexual erraticism and emotional turmoil is indeed a trip worth taking.

Recommended viewing for fans of heavy arthouse fare à la Michael Haneke.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

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