Isabelle Huppert: interview

0

Comments

Add +

Actress Isabelle Huppert talks to Time Out about her globetrotting schedule and shooting her new film, ’Private Property‘, with a young director in Belgium

Isabelle Huppert: interview
Yannick (standing) and Jérémie Renier plays Isabelle Huppert's sons in 'Private Property'
Isabelle Huppert arrives an impressive 45 minutes late for breakfast in Paris. ‘I’m sorry, I always think I’m going to be able to get up,’ she apologises, business-like, not looking like she’s just jumped out of bed. She has an excuse for lying in: since January she has been treading the boards most evenings in the original French version of Yasmina Reza’s play, ‘God of Carnage’, the translation of which opened a few weeks ago in the West End, with Janet McTeer in the same role as Huppert. Is it going well? ‘Yes, it’s a very good play, and a big success too, which is always nice.’ She starts as she goes on: direct, honest, measured.

Best known for her work in France with filmmakers such as Claude Chabrol (most recently, ‘A Comedy of Power’), Patrice Chéreau (‘Gabrielle’), François Ozon (‘8 Women’) and, going further back, Jean-Luc Godard and Maurice Pialat, Huppert, who turned 55 last month, has recently been travelling the globe to work. She’s always made the odd film in America – the last was David O Russell’s ‘I Heart Huckabees’ in 2004, which she describes as ‘a failure’, and before that ‘Amateur’ with Hal Hartley in 1994 and Michael Cimino’s ‘Heaven’s Gate’ in 1980 – but last year she was working as far and wide as Cameroon, Cambodia and Bulgaria, all in the space of seven months.

It’s been a busy couple of years? She dismisses the idea of hard work as mere ‘work’ but adds, ‘I guess if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t. When it’s over you realise how much energy you have to get to do all these trips. But beforehand it’s very exciting and as you do it it’s very exciting. I’m glad to be on stage now, to be in Paris for some time.’

She was in Cameroon to shoot ‘White Material’, a film by Claire Denis, the French writer-director of ‘Beau Travail’ and ‘Trouble Every Day’, which will most likely premiere at Cannes next month. ‘It’s the story of a woman who runs a coffee plantation,’ she explains. ‘And her ex-husband lives next door with his wife. Then war erupts. It’s a movie by Claire Denis, so it’s a particular vision of war and family and of the conflict between black and white. It’s very deep.’ To follow that, she travelled to Bulgaria to shoot a film called ‘Home’ with a Swiss filmmaker.

‘Again it takes place in a house, but this time it’s more conceptual. It’s a family that lives in a house near an unused highway, and one day the highway opens and the place becomes unbearable. It’s a metaphor for the family, and instead of leaving they stay there and shut the house up – it’s quite fascinating.’ To complete her odyssey, Huppert flew to Cambodia to shoot an adaptation of Marguerite Dumas’ novel ‘A Dam Against the Pacific’ with Rithy Panh, the Cambodian filmmaker mostly known for documentaries such as his ‘S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine’.

But we’ve met today to talk about a French-language film called ‘Private Property’, which Huppert shot back in 2006. It’s an impressive work: a claustrophobic family drama set in a large, shabby house in the Belgian countryside. Huppert plays Pascale, a middle-aged mother to twentysomething siblings Thierry and François, played by real brothers Jérémie and Yannick Renier (Jérémie you may remember as the blond tearaway and young father in the Dardennes’ ‘L’Enfant’). The brothers appear to be in their mid-twenties but they act like teenagers.

Their father is long off the domestic scene – he lives locally with his new partner and a young baby – and behind him he’s left a household in a strange stasis. The two sons treat their mother appallingly. She barely reacts to their abuse, having cast herself in a pathetic, passive role, and there’s something deeply inappropriate about the whole set-up: how many adult sons brush their teeth while their mother showers behind them? There’s no incest in this household, but there are enough strange goings-on for us to suspect it. There’s also a tense atmosphere of latent violence.

The writer and director of the film is a Belgian, Joachim Lafosse, and ‘Private Property’ is his second full-length feature. He sent Huppert the script via the film’s producer, a friend of hers. She read it, ‘really liked it,’ and watched his short film, ‘Folie Privée’. ‘It was very powerful, really impressive, with a real signature of a director.’

We discuss the film’s title, which in French is ‘Nue Propriété’. It’s a legal term that doesn’t lend itself well to translation.‘It means when a house belongs to a child through transmission or inheritance but a parent still has a right to live in the house: they cannot be thrown out. In this case, the mother, my character, has the nue propriété of the house.’ Which may explain the strange relationship between Pascale and her sons, who treat her like a child and abuse her violently when she suggests she may sell the house and they should move on with their lives. Huppert lends a childish vulnerability to the role.

Does she find it refreshing to seek out new talents? ‘Refreshing? No, not really. Any film is refreshing. It’s not a matter of experience or how many films the actor or director did before. It’s a jump into the unknown, whatever the film is.’ But she has an instinct to work with new people?

‘Yeah,’ she says, half-agreeing. ‘But sometimes my instinct is to stop. It’s very difficult to find the right project and to make the right choices. Sometimes you have disappointments.’

Surely, over the years, the disappointments in her career have been few and far between? Twice she has won awards for acting at each of Cannes, Venice and the European Film Awards.

‘Yes, perhaps,’ she hesitates, with characteristic qualification. ‘Over the years.’

Private Property’ opens on Friday.

Author: Dave Calhoun



Users say

0 comments


Top Stories

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.

Oscar predictions

Oscar predictions

The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards

January film highlights 2013

January film highlights 2013

Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.

Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'

Martin Freeman interview

Martin Freeman interview

'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Ang Lee interview

Ang Lee interview

The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'

Michael Haneke interview

Michael Haneke interview

The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.

Read our interview with Michael Haneke

Thomas Vinterberg interview

Thomas Vinterberg interview

The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.

Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.

Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us

On the set of 'Sightseers'

On the set of 'Sightseers'

Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.

Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.

Read our interview with Tim burton

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.

Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films


Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

Martin McDonagh interview

Martin McDonagh interview

The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.

Read the interview

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’