France’s Isabelle Huppert nominated for Best Actress Oscar for film ‘Elle’

French actress Isabelle Huppert, has been nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars for performance in the film "Elle". It comes after she scooped two gongs at the Golden Globes.

France's Isabelle Huppert nominated for Best Actress Oscar for film 'Elle'
Photos: AFP
Steely and fearless, she has a history of taking on some of the toughest roles in cinema from rape victims to murderers to sado-masochists and abortionists.
Her staggering performance in “Elle”, which won both best foreign film at the Globes in Los Angeles on Sunday and her best actress, is typical of her gift for making almost unbearably dark stories not just watchable but compelling.
In it she plays a businesswoman, Michele, who is raped by a younger man only to track down him and invite him to dinner.
Just when you think you cannot bear the tension a minute more, she slowly achieves a kind of mastery over her attacker by extracting her own pleasure from him.
Director Paul Verhoeven told AFP that several top American actresses turned down the role in the subversive thriller because it strayed dangerously far from boundaries of the rape-revenge genre.
So instead he set the film in France and asked 63-year-old Huppert to play the role.
The veteran Dutch-born maker of “Basic Instinct” and “Total Recall” described Huppert as “the most fantastic actor I've ever worked with, on a level that I did not know existed”.
“I have never seen an actor or actress add so much to the movie that was not in the script.”
'The French Meryl Streep'
Verhoeven is not the only one to have been bowled over by her intelligence.
The late American writer and feminist Susan Sontag called her “a total artist” and said she had never met “an actor more intelligent, or a person more intelligent among actors”.
Huppert is often compared to Meryl Streep for her range and her mastery of both stage and screen.
But the American actress has never embraced the darker side of human nature as readily as Huppert has in such controversial classics as Michael Haneke's “The Piano Teacher”.
That searing portrayal of a masochistic Viennese music professor won her both the best actress at Cannes and the European Film Awards in 2001.
“In film there are few things that scare me,” said the mother-of-three, who began her career playing rebellious freckly teenagers in the early 1970s.
Her big breakthroughs came in the French road movie “Les Valseuses” (1972) — which also launched the career of Gerard Depardieu — and Jean-Luc Godard's
“Every Man for Himself”, where she played a prostitute.
She was still stuck in a brothel for her first big American role playing a madam in Michael Cimino's commercially disastrous “Heaven's Gate”.
But her career has been built on playing powerful women.
She has often used her almost prim upper-class exterior to contrast a boiling emotional interior — her slight frame further concealing the power within.
Icy charisma
Nor was she afraid to play the bitch for the late great French director Claude Chabrol with whom she often worked, using her icy charisma for great dark comic effect in his dissections of French bourgeois life.
Having long admired her from afar, American critics have bowed down before Huppert despite “Elle”'s slippery subject matter.
“This is one of those moments when an actress isn't just honoured but anointed — lionised for her bravura and daring,” said Owen Gleiberman of the movie bible Variety.
Her royal flush of critics' awards, with New York, Los Angeles, US national film writers all proclaiming her performance the best of the year came despite “Elle” not making it onto the Oscar shortlist of best foreign films.
Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times called her “one of the world's greatest living actresses” while the New York Times marvelled at “her ability to convey moral complexity in the most unique ways… Huppert gives the impression of observing herself at the same time that we, the audience, are observing her.”
Verhoeven, whose career has been revived by the film after the critical catastrophe of “Showgirls”, said: “That's the beauty of it. She's discovering it as she goes, and is not afraid to feel that.
“I think there is always a mystery to her acting,” he added.
There is mystery too at how at 63 Huppert looks as beautiful as she did when she was a teenager. Asked at Cannes last year if there was a portrait hidden somewhere in an attic, she laughed off the idea, crediting her genes from her English-teacher mother and Jewish father, who survived World War II in France by hiding his roots.
Linked with the powerful French producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier early in her career, she has had three children with her Lebanese-born partner Ronald Chammah, a producer and director, who she met on the set of a Chabrol film in the early 1980s.


French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.