Isabelle Huppert is the French queen of cinema who’s finally claiming her throne in Hollywood
There's nothing quite like the intrigue of a French woman. Superficially regarded as the woman who never gets fat, always wears red lipsticks and makes chain-smoking an art form, we're familiar with some of cinema's most memorable characters. The French woman is either a femme fatale embodied by the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot or Isabelle Adjani, or a whimsical creature of comfort inhabited by actresses such as Audrey Tautou, Léa Seydoux or Marion Cotillard. And then there's Isabelle Huppert.
The 63-year-old Oscar nominee isn't someone Hollywood can pigeonhole, but it's a name that rolls off the tongue of film's Francophiles. In her freckled-faced youth, she's worked with industry bigwigs such as Gerard Depardieu in Les Valseuses (1974) as well as Jean-Luc Godard in Every Man for Himself (1980). Her longstanding creative relationship with director Claude Chabrol has earned her Cannes nods in Best Actress categories, winning her first major award for her role in Violette Nozière (1978). She doesn't shy away from controversial roles such as an incestuous mother in Ma Mère (2004) and a sadomasochistic teacher in The Piano Teacher (2001).
After her work in over 100 films, it's almost a shame that Hollywood has only recognised her now for her role as Michèle LeBlanc in Elle, a story that follows the aftermath of a woman's rape. At the recent Golden Globes, Elle picked up awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress In A Drama Motion Picture. Working with Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven (who directed RoboCop and Total Recall), Huppert brings forward a performance that shakes you to the very core. Her steely gaze is unmoved in hardship, unwavering when met with desire. In Elle, she slips into the role of mother, daughter, ex-wife, lover, friend and boss in what Huppert herself has described as a "post-feminist" character. While circumstances suggest otherwise, she neither plays the role of the victim nor the hero — choosing instead to leave it up the audience to decide. You'll leave the cinema questioning the roles society has conveniently framed on genders, and what we can decide to do with them.
Watch a snippet of Elle below.
Elle is showing at The Projector. Book tickets here. For last week's #WomanCrushWednesday, click here.