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Isabelle Huppert on Female Directors, Netflix and Haneke’s ‘Happy End’

Variety logo Variety 5/19/2017 Elsa Keslassy
© Provided by Variety

Golden Globe winner Isabelle Huppert, in Cannes with two films (Michael Haneke’s “Happy End” and Hong Sang-soo’s “Claire’s Camera”), participated in a candid talk as part of Kering’s Woman in Motion program on Friday at the Majestic Hotel.

During her one-on-one discussion with UniFrance’s managing director Isabelle Giordano, Huppert, who was in high spirits, discussed her recent travels in Hollywood during the awards season and her encounter with many powerful actresses, who showed her great affection and admiration.

“It’s tougher for American women filmmakers to make films and exist in that industry, and they seem to be challenging the barriers with more force, obsession and determination than in France,” explained the well-spoken actress.

Huppert then talked about the difference between films directed by men and women, and said she felt movies directed by male helmers tend to be more conventional than their female counterparts.

“I think women often make films that are more personal and tend to venture off the tried-and-tested path, which allows them to be more free, whereas men tend to be on a sort of freeway,” said Huppert, adding with a laugh that, “We’re often more free (and flexible) when we’re on a side street than on an freeway.”

The French actress argued women directors, especially in the States, don’t have the opportunities to work certain types of films — presumably like bigger-budgeted action or genre movies.

Going forward, Huppert said she welcomed the idea of making a film in the U.S. and cited Kelly Reichardt, the helmer of such films as “Certain Women” and “Wendy and Lucy,” as a director she’d like to work with.

Asked if there are characters that she has played that she didn’t like, Huppert said, “The purpose of film isn’t to present the kindness of the world.”

Huppert also argued films don’t need to be overtly political to address important subjects. She cited Haneke’s movie “Happy End,” which is set in Calais against the backdrop of the European refugee crisis, but is about how the protagonists in the film are completely oblivious to what’s happening around them. It’s a recurrent theme in Haneke’s films, she said — the gap between the people who are living like we do here and the stark contrast with the rest of the world.

But Huppert pointed out it wasn’t the job of an actress or a filmmaker to be preachy, paraphrasing Samuel Goldwyn. “As (Haneke) said, ‘to deliver messages there is the post-office.'”

Huppert also addressed the controversy surrounding Netflix which was criticized by French film orgs for not planning a traditional theatrical release in France for “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories.”

“It’s part of how the world is evolving. I see it as a little gem which keeps growing. I think the way a filmmaker works with actors has more of an impact,” said Huppert.

“Of course it’s a theme which we must think about, but I don’t have a clear answer. I’m just happy we are having the opportunity to see films at Cannes,” added the actress with a radiant smile.

Huppert didn’t escape the inevitable question of dealing with aging in the film business and she pulled it off with her staple witty charm. “I will answer that question in 20 years when I will really be old!”

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