Nationality: French. Born: Isabelle Anne Huppert in Paris, 16 March 1955. Education: Attended Lycée de St. Cloud; Versailles Conservatory; studied Russian at Faculté de Clichy; studied with Antoine Vitz, Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique. Family: Daughter: Lolita, and son: Lorenzo. Career: 1971—TV debut in Proust; film debut in Faustine et le bel été; 1973—stage debut in Viendra-t-il un autre été?; 1980—first American film, Heaven's Gate.Awards: Most Promising Newcomer, British Academy, for La Dentellière, 1977; Best Actress, Cannes Festival, and César Award, for Violette Nozière, 1978; Best Actress, Venice Film Festival, for Une Affaire des femmes, 1989; Best Actress, Berlin Film Festival for Malina, 1990; Best Actress Moscow Film Festival for Madame Bovary, 1990; Best Actress, Venice Film Festival, and César Award, for La Cérémonie, 1995. Agent: Artmédia, 10 av George V, 75008 Paris, France.
Films as Actress:
Faustine et le bel été (Faustine and the Beautiful Summer; Growing Up) (Companeez)
Le Bar de la Fourche (Levent) (as Annie); César et Rosalie (César and Rosalie) (Sautet) (as Marite)
Glissements progressifs du plaisir (Robbe-Grillet); Les Valseuses (Going Places) (Blier) (as Jacqueline); Sérieux comme le plaisir (As Serious as Pleasure) (Benayoun); Dupont Lajoie (Boisset); Le Grand Délire (The Big Delirium) (Berry); Aloise (de Kermadec) (title role)
Rosebud (Rape of Innocence) (Preminger) (as Hélène); Docteur Françoise Gailland (No Time for Breakfast) (Bertuccelli) (as Elisabeth Gailland); Je suis Pierre Rivière (I Am Pierre Rivière) (Lipinksa); Le Petit Marcel (Little Marcel) (Fansten) (as Yvette); Flash Back (Coggio)
Le Juge et l'assassin (The Judge and the Assassin) (Tavernier) (as Rose)
La Dentellière (The Lacemaker) (Goretta) (as Beatrice, "Pomme"); Des Enfants gâtés (Tavernier); Les Indiens sont encore loin (The Indians Are Still Far Away) (Moraz) (as Jenny Kern)
Violette Nozière (Violette) (Chabrol) (title role); Retour à la bien aimée (Return to the Beloved) (Adam) (as Jeanne)
Les Soeurs Brontë (The Brontë Sisters) (Téchiné) (as Anne)
Sauve qui peut (la vie) (Slow Motion; Every Man for Himself) (Godard) (as Isabelle Rivière); Orökseg (Les Héritières; The Heiresses) (Mészáros); Loulou (Pialat) (as Nelly); Heaven's Gate (Cimino) (as Ella Watson); La Dame aux Camélias (The True Story of Camille; La vera storia della signora delle camelie; Die Kameliendame) (Bolognini and Festa Campanile) (as Alphonsine Plessis)
Coup de torchon (Clean Slate) (Tavernier) (as Rose); Les Ailes de la colombe (Wings of a Dove) (Jacquot); Eaux profondes (Deep Water) (Deville) (as Melanie)
La Femme de mon pote (My Best Friend's Girl) (Blier) (as Viviane Arthaud); Passion (Passion, travail et amour) (Godard) (as Isabelle); La Truite (The Trout) (Losey) (as Frédérique)
Coup de foudre (Entre Nous; At First Sight) (Kurys) (as Lena); Storia di Piera (Ferreri) (as Piera)
Signé Charlotte (Signed Charlotte; Sincerely Charlotte) (Caroline Huppert) (as Charlotte); Sac de noeuds (All Mixed Up) (Balasko) (as Rose Marie); Le Plus Grand Musée (Lander—for TV)
Cactus (Cox) (as Colo)
Les Possédés (The Possessed) (Wajda) (as Maria Shatov); The Bedroom Window (Hanson) (as Sylvia Wentworth)
Une Affaire des femmes (Story of Women) (Chabrol) (as Marie Latour); La Guerre la plus glorieuse (Petrovic); Milan noir (Black Milan) (Chammah) (as Sarah); La Garce (The Bitch) (Pascal) (as Aline Kaminker/Edith Weber)
La Vengeance d'une femme (A Woman's Revenge) (Doillon) (as Cecile); Malina (Schroeter) (as the Woman)
Madame Bovary (Chabrol) (title role); Becoming Colette (Danny Huston)
Après l'Amour (Love after Love) (Kurys) (as Lola); Contre l'oubli (Against Oblivion) (Akerman and others) (as herself)
L'Inondation (The Flood) (Minaev) (as Sofia)
Amateur (Hartley) (as Isabelle); La Séparation (The Separation) (Vincent) (as Anne)
La Cérémonie (A Judgment in Stone) (Chabrol) (as Jeanne)
Le Affinità elettive (The Elective Affinities) (Paolo and Vittorio Taviani) (as Carlotta)
Les Palmes de M. Schutz (Pinoteau) (as Marie Curie); Rien ne va plus (The Swindle) (Chabrol) (as Betty)
L'École de la chair (School of Flesh) (Jacquot) (as Dominique)
Saint-Cyr (Mazuy) (as Maintenon); Pas de scandale (Jacquot) (as Agnès Jeancourt)
La Vie moderne (Ferreira-Barbosa) (as Claire); La Fausse Suivante (False Servant) (Jacquot) (as La Comtesse); Les Destinées sentimentales (Assayas) (as Nathalie); Merci pour le Chocolat (Chabrol) (as Mika)
By HUPPERT: articles—
"Claude Goretta and Isabelle Huppert," interview with Judith Kass, in Movietone News (Seattle), 14 August 1978.
Interview with Stephen Harvey, in New York Times, 16 November 1980.
Interview with Serge Daney and Serge Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1981.
Interview with M. Amiel, in Cinéma (Paris), February 1982.
Interview with D. Parra, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1985.
Interview with Nick Roddick, in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), May 1986.
Interview with Tim Pulleine, in Films and Filming (London), January 1987.
Interview with Serge Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1988.
Interview with M. Buruiana and M.-C. Abel, in Séquences (Montreal), March 1989.
Interview with A. Philippon and S. Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1990.
Interview with D. Roth-Bettoni, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1991.
Interview in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1994.
Interview with Geoff Andrew in Time Out (London), 14 December 1994.
Interview with Patrick Lamassoure in Le Film Français (Paris), no. 2557, 5 May 1995.
Interview in Studio Magazine (Paris), no. 102, September 1995.
Interview with Ryan Gilbey in Première (London), vol. 3, no. 8, September 1995.
Huppert, Isabelle, "Sovremenniki," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), October 1995.
Interview in EPD Film (Frankfurt/Main), December 1995.
Interview in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 66–71, 1997.
Interview in Première (Paris), no. 242, May 1997
Interview with Jean-Claude Loiseau in Télérama (Paris), no. 2530, 8 July 1998.
On HUPPERT: books—
Ruscart, Marc, Isabelle vue par . . ., Paris, 1989.
On HUPPERT: articles—
Yakir, Dan, in After Dark, October 1980.
"Isabelle Huppert," in Comédiennes aujourd'hui: au micro et sous le regard, Paris, 1980.
Current Biography 1981, New York, 1981.
Stars (Mariembourg, Belgium), September 1990.
Strauss, F., "Scènes de la passion," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1990.
Roth-Bettoni, D., "Isabelle Huppert," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1991.
Schaefer, Stephen, "Femme Fatale," in Connoisseur, December 1991.
Allamand, C., "Isabelle Huppert est-elle bête?," in Rectangle (Geneva), Winter 1991/92.
Brantley, Ben, "Huppert Star," in Vanity Fair (New York), January 1992.
Murat, Pierre, Vincent Remy, and Marie-Élisabeth Rouchy, "Amateur/'Je suis une vorace, une curieuse aussi,"' in Télérama (Paris), 19 October 1994.
Murat, Pierre, & others, "Le cinéma français: Crise ou chuchotements?" in Télérama (Paris), 17 May 1995.
Filmography in Unifrance Film International Newsletter (Paris), no. 7, 1996.
Mackenzie, Suzie, "Isabelle Huppert," in The Guardian, 10 October 1998.
* * *
Isabelle Huppert's graduation from brief appearances to substantial roles came quickly. Within five years of making her debut she had achieved prominence as the rebellious middle-class teenager happily losing her virginity in Les Valseuses and had earned critical recognition for her exquisitely judged performance as the culturally alienated and sexually exploited "Pomme" of La Dentellière. As an unassuming hairdresser thrown into a pressurized student milieu by her immature lover, she copes bravely until, abandoned by him, she has a nervous breakdown. Huppert's understated rendering of internalized emotions, through minimal gestures imbued with tragic poignancy, was outstanding.
Further portrayals of the emotionally repressed or unfulfilled character, often at odds with her sexual or social situation, were to follow. In Les Indiens sont encore loin she conveyed the secret anguish of a reserved and emotionally confused schoolgirl choosing death; in Les Soeurs Brontë she was a convincing Anne, the most self-absorbed of the frustrated literary sisters; in Loulou, a bored middle-class wife falling for a plausible working-class rogue (Depardieu), and suffering the lacerating tensions of class differences; in Eauxprofondes, a pathetic wife shackled to a perverse husband; in La vera storia della signora delle camelie, a demythologizing account of Marguerite Gauthier's life, she was the lonely, unloved heroine; and in Cactus, an unhappily married woman who builds a new life with a sightless partner, after losing an eye herself in an accident.
Huppert's performance as the enigmatic murderess in Violette Nozière was both an extension of previous roles and a platform for others. A complex figure seeming to dutifully comply with the stuffy constraints of her cramped family life, Violette not only spends her nights as a good-time girl working the hotels but also seeks the death of her parents. Huppert brilliantly projects this disturbing duality: the self-effacing homely girl of earlier films is now dovetailed with the sexual woman of others.
In subsequent roles the image of the sexual Huppert was developed. In La Garce and The Bedroom Window she was a ruthless femme fatale; in the romantic thriller Milan noir she held sway over three men; in Coup de torchon she provided temptation for the lubricious Philippe Noiret; as Frédérique in The Trout she ensnared men for her self-advancement; while in Retour à la bien aimée she is a murderous fetishist's obsession. For Cimino she was the charismatic whorehouse madame in Heaven's Gate, while for Godard, in Sauve qui peut (la vie), her role as the jaded prostitute illustrated the vacuity of commercialized sex. Huppert has also exploited her sexual image for comic purposes. In La Femme de mon pote she humorously fails, despite all her guile, to seduce an uninterested disc-jockey played by the comedian Coluche, while in Hartley's Amateur she gave a witty and playfully erotic performance as an unfulfilled nymphomaniac nun whose gift for pornography takes her from the convent to the unlikely world of the sex industry.
Since the pivotal Violette Nozière Huppert has made four further films for Chabrol, each revealing a different facet of her wide-ranging talent. In Une Affaire des femmes, she became his wartime back-street abortionist and, with a performance of considerable depth and subtlety, conveyed the woman's unconscious rationalization of her actions. For her award-winning performance in La Cérémonie she transformed herself into Jeanne, a brash, exuberant, leather-clad postmistress who manipulates her more reserved friend Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) into murdering her bourgeois employers and trashing their home. The comedy thriller Rien ne va plus brought yet another incarnation as the delightfully seductive vamp adopting a variety of disguises to dupe her gullible victims out of their money. Less convincing, however, was her restrained, overly passive performance as Flaubert's fantasizing provincial adulteress Emma in Madame Bovary, where Chabrol, in his pictorially exquisite heritage version, appeared to privilege period recreation over characterization.
Huppert's roles as disappointed or frustrated women often invite consideration of feminist issues and, in the hands of women directors, the female perspective may imply an exploration of feminist narrative strategies. In Orökseg, Márta Mészáros tackles the issue of surrogate motherhood with Huppert as the child-bearer for a sterile friend and embroiled in subsequent jealousies and rivalries; in Josiane Balasko's challenging comedy Sac de noeuds, reminiscent of Les Valseuses in its forceful dialogue, she played an assertive suburban platinum-blond having a good time with a virile criminal, while for her own sister Caroline Huppert in Signé Charlotte she was transformed into a fun-loving punk singer determined to take her chances. In two films for Diane Kurys, the feminist positions and narrative perspectives are explored: in Coup de foudre, she challenges traditional attitudes by abandoning her oafish husband to start a new life with a similarly unfulfilled female friend while in Après l'amour her viewpoint is again adopted as a successful, financially independent female who leaves her dull, career-orientated husband to take up with a pop star, though with painfully unhappy consequences. Most recently in Laurence Ferreira-Barbosa's account of female constraints and corrosive boredom, La Vie moderne, Huppert plays a middle-aged, childless provincial housewife filling her time with music.
Roles for male directors in the last decade have also reflected contemporary attitudes about woman's sexual and social roles. For Doillon in La Vengeance d'une femme she gave a brilliant performance as a cruel yet vulnerable wife sharing the news of her husband's death with his former mistress and making every barbed word count; for Jacquot in Ecole de la chair, she gave a commanding performance as a raunchy divorcee and successful fashion executive who falls heavily for a young bisexual stud, only to suffer violence and emotional distress at his hands; in Malina, torn between two lovers, she again rejected her traditional style of understatement to reveal her joys and suffering in a remarkably physical performance; in her excursion into Russian cinema, Inondation, which raises questions of female self-image around issues of maternity and sterility, she plays a middle-aged wife desperate for a child and driven to murdering the younger woman her husband has taken as a mistress. Decidedly less dramatic was her elegiac performance in La Séparation as Anne, who calmly confesses to her husband (Daniel Auteuil) that she is having an affair. This is the Huppert of old, the uncommunicative, suffering female trapped in a marriage which is slowly and painfully disintegrating.
More conventional roles complete Huppert's recent repertoire; as the aristocratic Madame de Maintenon of Saint-Cyr; the socially-conscious upper-class house-wife of a criminal executive (Pas de scandale); the unhappy Baroness Carlotta who discovers love after her marriage (Le Affinita elettive); and as the committed research worker Marie Curie harassed by her director (Philippe Noiret) in Les Palmes de Monsieur Schutz. With more than sixty successful film and stage roles to her credit, Isabelle Huppert can rightfully claim recognition as a talented, questioning actress who enjoys the respect of her fellow professionals. As a comic performer she has been engaging and disarming; as a seductress she has projected a potent sensuality; as an iconoclastic, questioning rebel she has been disturbing; as a sensitive exponent of the feelings of the inarticulate she is unmatched. Her major roles have constantly reflected her awareness of the sexual and/or social conditioning which shapes women's lives. A gifted linguist, she has enjoyed rewarding associations with directors, including several female directors, throughout Europe. The quality and range of her recent performances suggest there is still a great deal to be expected of this gifted actress.
—R. F. Cousins