An evening with Isabelle Huppert

John Waters to chair discussion of Abuse Of Weakness.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Isabelle Huppert on working with Catherine Breillat Abuse of Weakness and Michael Haneke on The Piano Teacher: "In a way, even with a man director with an actress, the director seems to have the actor reproduce some of them, to a certain level."
Isabelle Huppert on working with Catherine Breillat Abuse of Weakness and Michael Haneke on The Piano Teacher: "In a way, even with a man director with an actress, the director seems to have the actor reproduce some of them, to a certain level." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York will host An Evening with Isabelle Huppert, the star of Catherine Breillat's fantastic, heavy-duty tour-de-force Abuse Of Weakness (Abus de faiblesse). Cultural icon filmmaker John Waters will moderate a post screening discussion with Huppert on Wednesday, July 30, following the 6:00pm screening of Abuse Of Weakness.

Maud, played by Isabelle Huppert who is formidable in every scene and gesture, wakes up one morning under fresh white sheets and notices that there is something wrong with her left arm. She tries to get up and collapses. The tapestry of her world was struck down and her soul went into battle. Now, she cannot draw a clock with the numbers any more. She is progressing slowly and tells the speech therapist in one of the most potent hospital scenes on film what is missing. "I would like to laugh. I very much like to laugh." Huppert heartbreakingly continues with expressive "ee" and "oo" sound exercises. Everything is different now.

Catherine Breillat on casting Isabelle Huppert: "She understood that I really, really desired her. The character is her and she cannot refuse."
Catherine Breillat on casting Isabelle Huppert: "She understood that I really, really desired her. The character is her and she cannot refuse." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Isabelle Huppert told me during the 51st New York Film Festival about how much her style matches Catherine Breillat's "We have this kind of style in common. Being dressed in black and a bit boyish. It wasn't difficult to dress me because it's my style and it's her style. We share this. It was all very simple but very beautiful. She always has beautiful objects around her."

On the morning after her US premiere at the New York Film Festival, Catherine Breillat revealed to me how she finally got to work with Isabelle Huppert - "Several times before I wanted to work with Isabelle. She not really refused. This time I took the phone and said 'Isabelle, if you want to shoot a movie with me, then do this one. You have to interpret this character because afterwards you cannot make a movie with me because perhaps I will be dying.' [Catherine was smiling at me]."

Huppert, who won Best Actress at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of Erika in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher will introduce a screening of the film following her conversation with John Waters.

Isabelle explained when I told her that it's difficult to imagine, let's say, Michael Haneke, to allow someone to imitate him.: "In a way, even with a man director with an actress, the director seems to have the actor reproduce some of them, to a certain level. In the case of [Michael] Haneke it goes certainly through something a bit more hidden. Still, you capture something. There is almost like a mimicking between the director and the actor, it can be the voice, it can be the stiffness or it's an idea of what you perceive of his attitude or something. In this case it was obvious, it was the exact reproduction of what she [Breillat] is."

Abuse Of Weakness will open for an exclusive one-week run at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on August 15.

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