Beyond the Valley

John Waters on Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Huppert on John Waters and Valley Of Love.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

John Waters on Isabelle Huppert: "It's amazing, she gets in the skin of whoever it is."
John Waters on Isabelle Huppert: "It's amazing, she gets in the skin of whoever it is." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At the US première of Valley Of Love, Guillaume Nicloux's searing portrait of a long divorced couple (Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert), John Waters recalled Bertrand Blier's Going Places (Les Valseuses) as his first Isabelle experience, Catherine Breillat's Abuse Of Weakness (Abus De Faiblesse), and wishing he had seen her in Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire or Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, or Jean Genet's The Maids with Cate Blanchett and Elizabeth Debicki.

The next morning over coffee, I shared greetings from her Tip Top director Serge Bozon and Mrs. Hyde, where Isabelle will star with Romain Duris and Depardieu. At the French Embassy after party celebrating 25 years of French electronic music with DJs Busy P, Boston Bun, Superpoze and Jacques, she tried to answer John Waters earlier posed question.

Isabelle Huppert: "I try to create this sensation of reality …"
Isabelle Huppert: "I try to create this sensation of reality …" Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Anne-Katrin Titze: I loved your conversation here at the Film Society with Isabelle. What was the first film of hers you saw?

John Waters: With Isabelle in it? Oh my god, Going Places (Les Valseuses)? Probably. Maybe. If she is in anything, I'll go see it because I know she picks … She's a director's girl! She always picks radical directors and she picks movies that push the envelope. She is so great in everything that I would never not see a movie that she is in.

AKT: There is always an element of surprise, isn't there?

JW: You never know what kind of person! She can play any kind of person. It's amazing, she gets in the skin of whoever it is. I just love her do anything in any movie.

AKT: In the Catherine Breillat film …

JW: Oh, I know! I presented that [Abuse Of Weakness]! That was my choice in festivals. I went around and showed that as my pick hit movie. I love that movie. I love that director that she was playing, too.

AKT: So do I. One of my favourite scenes in it is when she is having the tough guy orthopedic boot made.

Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in The Maids
Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in The Maids

JW: I know. It's great.

AKT: Your outfit looks great by the way - the red with the yellow. Did you ever see Isabelle on stage?

JW: No I didn't. In the Tennessee Williams [Krzysztof Warlikowski's Streetcar Named Desire]? No, because I was away the next day. I think when we did that thing at Lincoln Center she was coming back to do it in New York.

Isabelle, when she spoke with John, was in rehearsal to perform in the Sydney Theatre Company production of Jean Genet's The Maids with Cate Blanchett and Elizabeth Debicki at City Center as the centerpiece of the 2014 Lincoln Center Festival.

AKT: I saw her many years ago in Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis.

JW: I never saw her on stage but I'd like to.

Before the US premiere screening of Valley Of Love, Waters who had already seen the film, asked me about the pills Isabelle Huppert's character is taking. I paid special attention, but couldn't make out any specific information. When I met with Isabelle the next day, I followed up on the mystery with her.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Last night, before seeing the movie, I briefly spoke to John Waters. Did he talk to you about the pills at the party?

Isabelle Huppert as Maud in Abuse Of Weakness: "I went around and showed that as my pick hit movie."
Isabelle Huppert as Maud in Abuse Of Weakness: "I went around and showed that as my pick hit movie."

Isabelle Huppert: Yes. He was very intrigued about the pills. He said: "But what pills are you taking?"

AKT: He had asked me too if I knew what pills you were taking.

IH: Well, I had no idea what pills I was taking. I wasn't sure whether he wanted to know what pills were actually in the film as a material in the film, or, what pills I was taking as a fictional character - was I taking pills for sore throat or stomach or to commit suicide? I guess, it was more for that, you know. He was so much intrigued by the pills.

Sometimes you put details in a film and you don't imagine how many questions could arise in people's minds. It's very strange. It tells you how much you make films for a lot of people but you make a film for each individual. It's a different film for each of us.

AKT: Very good point. I noticed something that is such a minor detail in the film and that is so beautiful. When you are sitting at the table after the first night he [Gérard] was in the same hotel room where we don't know what happened, you touch the sugar on the table, the artificial sweetener.

IH: When I speak on the phone? To my children?

AKT: Yes, you absentmindedly touch the artificial sweetener packets. That is such a real moment. Did you come up with that? Did it come out of the blue?

John Waters and Isabelle Huppert at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
John Waters and Isabelle Huppert at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

IH: Yeah. I know what I do when I do it. Because I always like to find … But it's nice when people notice it like what you just said, because when you do that, you are never sure if people are going to. Actually, people are good spectators most of the time. They really notice every little detail.

It's like when you speak in life, you would do that [she twirls a lock of her hair]. Immediately I try to create this sensation of reality by doing these little gestures.

AKT: There is also a line you could draw between the artificial sweetener and you going grocery shopping.

IH: Yeah. When I shop the soup.

AKT: It's wonderfully funny, because first you look at cereal.

IH: And then I take a soup.

AKT: Hot and sour soup. Do you ever do that here - shopping in America?

IH: Well, I shop in any country in the world. And there [in Death Valley] I notice the price or the composition of the [ingredients]. What I express – and I didn’t even think about it – when you shop in an unusual environment, that’s what my attitude maybe transmits. When you shop where you are used to shop you take things …

AKT: You know where things are and what they are.

Valley Of Love poster at the Walter Reade Theater
Valley Of Love poster at the Walter Reade Theater

IH: Here you look and you are not sure. It creates a sensation of not clumsiness, but something unusual. You can feel that she is a foreigner.

AKT: This morning I exchanged e-mails with Serge Bozon and told him that I was meeting with you. I asked how the preparation for Mrs. Hyde was coming along.

IH: Oh, it’s coming along very well because so many people are enthusiastic with the script. It’s a very exciting project. Everybody seems to be very very excited.

AKT: He said he was working on special effects this week and that you’ll start filming in September?

IH: In September, yes.

AKT: Again with Gérard Depardieu!

IH: Again with Gérard and Romain Duris and I’m very happy about that. I’ve never worked with Romain and he is a marvelous actor.

Coming up, more with Isabelle Huppert and Valley Of Love director Guillaume Nicloux.

Valley Of Love opens in the US on March 25.

The uniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center's 21st Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, runs through March 13. Screenings and filmmaker appearances will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.

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