This summer, French actress Isabelle Huppert makes a rare theatrical appearance on our stage in Phaedra(s), as part of LIFT 2016. Based on the writings of Sarah Kane, Wajdi Mouawad and J M Coetzee and directed by Polish maverick Krzysztof Warlikowski for Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, Huppert will embody one of Greek mythology’s most enigmatic characters, Phaedra.
As we look ahead to her performance on stage, Institut Français are looking back at some of perhaps her more familiar performances in front of the camera with a film retrospective at Ciné Lumière.
We pick some of our highlights from her prolific film career, screening as part of their Isabelle Huppert Retrospective…
The Lace Maker Dir: Claude Goretta (1977)
When young naïve Pomme is tempted to take a seaside retreat with her more wayward friend Marylène (and promptly abandons her for a man), she meets an equally shy student, also alone by the sea, François. Their relationship blossoms, François moves in, but Pomme soon discovers their worlds may not mesh as seamlessly as those hazy seaside days led them to believe. Huppert won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut for this performance in 1978.
The Piano Teacher Dir: Michael Haneke (2001)
One of her more well-known performances, Huppert plays Erica, a piano teacher in Vienna. Living alone with her domineering mother, Erica is cut off from the world both emotionally and sexually – a repression which surfaces in sadomasochistic fetishes…And then one of her students tries to seduce her… Dark and erotic, Huppert won her second Best Actress Award in Cannes for this chilling performance – one that marked the start of her collaborations with Michael Haneke. See also: Amour (2012).
Madame Bovary Dir: Claude Chabrol (1991)
Having filled her quiet life with books of romance and luxury, it’s not long before Emma Bovary finds that life with her dull doctor husband is not quite living up to her dreamy expectations of life and love. For entertainment, she throws herself into passionate love affairs, simply to escape the boredom. Based on Gustav Flaubert’s novel, and with Chabrol at the helm, this is surely one of Huppert’s finest roles. See also: Story of Women (1988) and La Cérémonie (1995).
Heaven’s Gate Dir: Michael Cimino (1980)
An epic 80s American Western? Starring Isabelle Huppert as a French prostitute caught in a love triangle with Christopher Walken and Kris Kristoffersen? There’s no denying that Michael The Deer Hunter Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate was wildly ambitious; there’s also no denying it was one of cinema’s biggest box office flops of all time. In spite of this, Heaven’s Gate has undoubtedly become a cult classic, enjoying a latter day renaissance to be considered a ‘modern masterpiece’.
LouLou Dir: Maurice Pialat (1980)
A rugged young Gérard Depardieu is the scoundrel who tempts middle-class Parisian housewife, Nelly, into a salacious affair in Pialat’s character study of the power of sex and passion over social class. The unlikely pairing of Huppert and Depardieu was a match worthy of screen legend. See also: Valley of Love (2015)
Meanwhile, back at the Barbican, on Sunday 12 June we’ll be screening Patrice Chéreau’s Gabrielle – plus Isabelle Huppert joins us for a ScreenTalk. Set in the early 1900s, Gabrielle has it all – beauty, social standing and a wealthy and devoted husband, Jean. One day, Jean wakes up to find a letter revealed that Gabrielle has left him for her lover. Though a few days later, she returns – prompting an intimate conversation about their marriage.
Want to discover more of Isabelle Huppert’s work?
Isabelle Huppert Retrospective takes place at Ciné Lumière from 1 May–12 June.
Isabelle Huppert introduces Barbara Loden’s Wanda at a special screening at the Whitechapel Gallery on Saturday 18 June.