Or how French and Filipino cinephiles convened in an intimate Q&A session with Isabelle Huppert to talk about cinema’s transformative power in breaking barriers last October 22.
Words by Pio Angelo Ocampo
Photos by the Embassy of France to the Philippines and Micronesia
Interview conducted by Cody Abad
Cinema is a language, or as actress Isabelle Huppert puts it, a window to the world. During the Q&A session after the screening of About Joan (À propos de Joan), actress Isabelle Huppert mentioned that traveling has always been part of her main motivation when working with films. “It’s what I’ve been trying to accomplish,” she says eagerly, and that her idea of being an actress is the ability to work with filmmakers from all over the world, with cinema as their common language.
This was not Huppert’s first time in the Philippines. A decade ago, she worked with director Brillante Mendoza for the 2012 feature Captive— a film that sheds a historical shadow on the Dos Palmas Kidnapping in Palawan, where she plays the hostage Thérèse Bourgoine alongside actors Mercedes Cabral, Sid Lucero, Angel Aquino, and Coco Martin to name a few. In February 2012, Brillante’s haunting film screened at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival.
In March of the same year, audiences gracing the screens of the Cannes Film Festival find Huppert in South Korea in Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country— a triptych of lovestruck, overlapping stories filled with flirtations and soju, where she plays three different French women: an adulterer, a filmmaker, and a divorcee, all of them named Anne— a warmly welcomed 2012 Palm d’Or contender. Not to mention that alongside this, she plays a small part as the daughter of the late Jean-Louis Trintingnant and Emmanuelle Riva from that year’s winner, Michael Haneke’s Amour.
It is common for viewers to see a character played by Isabelle Huppert as difficult. She is Claude Chabrol’s Madame Bovary (1991), the infamous anti-heroine of Gustave Flaubert known to be immature and neurotic, stubborn in adjusting to the banalities of married life. And above all, there is Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (La Pianiste) where she plays the masochistic Erika Kohut, a shocking performance that garnered her the Best Actress Award at Cannes in 2001. When asked about these so-called “difficult” characters she says, “I often hear that they are not easy characters or easy persons to like, [but] I think most likely, the situations that they are in are not easy to like either. That’s more how I view it, [the way they are] are just consequences of certain social, political, or personal situations. And of course, in order to survive or go through these situations, sometimes the only way is to not be very nice.”
Throughout the afternoon in Greenbelt 3, Huppert brushes off the idea that she chooses particular roles, and that instead, she chooses to work with great directors wherever they may come from. This, she insists, is her main motivation when making films. Her enduring allure, as Rachel Donadio describes her in The New York Times Style Magazine, is rooted in her passion as she said that she is “an actress from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes.” This allure, in this writer’s opinion, is owed to her power to yield cinema as language.
When film critic Phil Dy asks what she looks for in a director, she asserts that “by definition, cinema is always a bet.” The Q&A moderator, Sarge Lacuesta, further asks how she deals with fan worship, especially with young collaborators, to which she replies “cinema making is really doing something over [and over], it really is about the present time and by definition, has nothing to do with knowledge or experience… it makes everything unimportant, this awareness of if it is a first time director and I am an experienced actress.” Huppert’s director-oriented approach led her to work with the sensibilities of Danish-Norwegian Joachim Trier in Louder Than Bombs and Mia Hansen Løve in Things to Come (L’avenir)— films on grief and dealing with it on the everyday.
The 25th edition of the French Film Festival, as it celebrates the 75th anniversary of France-Philippine diplomatic relations, runs at Greenbelt 3 Cinemas from October 22 to October 30.
Author’s bio note:
Pio Angelo Ocampo graduated from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s Arts Management program where he served as president (A.Y. 2019-2020) of the program’s home organization. His practice stems from arts and culture writing, research, project management, and curatorial collaborations. He is currently based in Madrid, Spain.