From Robocop to Total Recall to Basic Instinct to Showgirls to Starship Troopers, director Paul Verhoeven isn’t known for subtlety when it comes to showing sex and violence onscreen. And at the Cannes Film Festival, his latest French feature is said to feature plenty of both and in a 17th century Italian convent to boot! Welcome to the polarized reaction that is sure to greet Benedetta.
Based on a true story and adapted from a 1986 novel titled Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, Verhoeven’s pic has tongues wagging in the Riviera. Could its buzz translate to Oscar attention?
Five years ago, the filmmaker premiered his thriller Elle at Cannes and it garnered some of the strongest reviews of his career. With a 91% Rotten Tomatoes rating, Elle won the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film. However, it did not score a nomination with the Academy. The acclaim for its star Isabelle Huppert was more widespread with nods at the Oscars, Globes, and Critics Choice Awards (though not SAG).
This brings us back to Benedetta. It remains to be seen whether France will pick this as its hopeful in the International Feature Film competition. If so, I do question whether it’s too controversial for inclusion. Its Tomatoes meter is currently at 67%. Yet critics have been quick to focus on the performance of Virginie Efria as the title character. The Belgian actress, I suspect, will be talked about as a contender in the coming months. Competition could complicate her inclusion in the final five, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…