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Isabelle Huppert: Passion and Contradiction

June 9, 2006 - June 30, 2006

La cérémonie, June 30

"I like to take unusual characters and make them as normal as possible," Isabelle Huppert (b. 1953) has said, "to play with the contradiction. To try to understand how the good and the bad live together." This great French actress's understanding of contradiction is embodied in the pair of roles that brought her to international stardom: the simple, fragile heroine of The Lacemaker (1977), and the amoral murderess of Violette Nozière (1978). (The latter film began a fruitful, decades-long collaboration with director Claude Chabrol, just one of the many major auteurs—Jean-Luc Godard, Joseph Losey, Maurice Pialat, Bertrand Tavernier, and Michael Haneke are others—whose films she has graced.) Huppert has crafted a remarkable series of performances marked by self-possession and a fierce, guarded intelligence. Always willing to take risks, she has played more than her share of debased or even monstrous characters, but has invested them with an unsentimental awareness. She says, "I don't try to sympathize with my characters, I just try to empathize with them. Try to understand. . . . I think I do this in films that are made in the shape of a question, not in the shape of an answer."

The San Francisco International Film Festival presents a screening of Huppert's new film Gabrielle at PFA on April 28. On April 30, Jean-Claude Carrière, cowriter of Every Man for Himself and Passion, will be present for an SFIFF screening of Belle de jour, and PFA presents four more of Carrière's films on May 5 and 6: see A Tribute to Jean-Claude Carrière.

Juliet Clark

Friday, June 9, 2006
7:00 p.m. The Lacemaker
In the role that made her an international star, Huppert portrays a fragile teen blossoming in and broken by love. "Built on tiny moments of human interaction, but observed with such precision and perception that this chamber drama is riveting. . . . Huppert's stunning performance gives the movie a luminous center."—New West

Friday, June 9, 2006
9:10 p.m. Loulou
Bourgeoise Huppert leaves her husband for working-class layabout Gérard Depardieu in Maurice Pialat's absorbing study of desire. "Loulou is as fresh and unsettling today as it was in 1980. [Depardieu and Huppert are] so explosively real and mercurial and spontaneous, that it's hard to think of them as acting."—Film Comment

Thursday, June 15, 2006
7:30 p.m. Madame Bovary
Huppert captures the title character, destroyed by an oppressive provincial society and her own romantic delusions, in Claude Chabrol's intelligent, rigorously faithful adaptation of the great Flaubert novel.

Friday, June 16, 2006
7:00 p.m. Every Man for Himself
Huppert plays Isabelle, a country girl turned prostitute, in Godard's lyrical comedy about the selling of the self. "At the end of the film, one's perceptions have been so enriched, so sharpened, that one comes out of it invigorated. . . . A stunning, original work."—N.Y. Times

Friday, June 16, 2006
8:50 p.m. Passion
Huppert and Hanna Schygulla in Godard's visceral, visually enthralling film about a film called Passion, based on tableaux vivants of famous paintings but extending beyond the screen-as-canvas to encompass dramas of labor and the labors of love.

Sunday, June 18, 2006
3:00 p.m. Heaven's Gate
The restored director's cut of Michael Cimino's monumental Western of cattlemen vs. immigrant farmers in 1890s Wyoming, featuring Huppert, Kris Kristofferson, and Christopher Walken.

Thursday, June 22, 2006
7:30 p.m. The Piano Teacher
Huppert is astonishing as a musician driven by dark sexual compulsions in Michael Haneke's scandalous melodrama. "At once an emotional thriller and a domestic horror movie—a woman's picture with a vengeance, in which the bloodletting is kept to a minimum, and ends up all the more powerful and profound for it."—LA Weekly

Friday, June 23, 2006
7:00 p.m. Malina
"In one of the rare truly visual films about writers, Werner Schroeter generates extravagant images to match the insights of the nameless writer he films—played with ferocious precision by Huppert."—New Yorker. Written by Elfriede Jelinek from Ingeborg Bachmann's novel.

Friday, June 23, 2006
9:25 p.m. The Trout
Huppert in a French film by American expatriate Joseph Losey, also starring Jeanne Moreau. "A penetrating portrait of a maddening personality—the innocent who damages what she touches. Chillingly beautiful."—Chicago Film Festival

Saturday, June 24, 2006
6:30 p.m. Merci pour le chocolat
Swiss chocolate flows in the veins of the haute bourgeois family at the center of Chabrol's "witty psychological thriller, more gothic than noir . . . Self-contained, enigmatic, illuminated from within, Huppert banks a performance that pays dividends throughout the film."—Village Voice

Saturday, June 24, 2006
8:30 p.m. Violette Nozière
A rare screening of Chabrol's classic, chilling portrait of a parricidal teenager in 1930s France. "The riveting Huppert provides a brilliant portrait of inscrutable fatalism behind an impenetrable mask."—Village Voice

Sunday, June 25, 2006
3:00 p.m. Saint-Cyr
As Madame de Maintenon, the secret wife of Louis XIV who founds a boarding school for young women but finds her ideals impossible to maintain, Huppert gives "one of her greatest and chilliest performances."—N.Y. Times

Sunday, June 25, 2006
5:30 p.m. Coup de torchon
Huppert and Philippe Noiret in Bertrand Tavernier's adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel. "Set in a small, parched town in French West Africa in 1938, [it] turns into a most provocative, wittily misanthropic melodrama set in the landscape of the soul."—N.Y. Times

Friday, June 30, 2006
7:00 p.m. La cérémonie
Based on Ruth Rendell's A Judgment in Stone, Claude Chabrol's acclaimed thriller pits a stolid new maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) and an insolent postmistress (Huppert) against a too-comfortable bourgeois family in a scenario that plays as "theater-of-cruelty Marx."—Village Voice

Friday, June 30, 2006
9:15 p.m. Story of Women
Claude Chabrol's austere and compelling portrait of Marie Latour, a housewife-turned-abortionist in occupied France, played by Huppert as "a cold but oddly sympathetic everywoman."—Chicago Reader

Curated at PFA by Susan Oxtoby. The Pacific Film Archive acknowledges the following individuals and organizations for their generous support of this series: Marie Bonnel, French Embassy, New York; Christophe Musitelli, French Consulate, San Francisco; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris; Stéphanie Côté, La Cinémathèque québécoise, Montreal; Sarah Choyeau, Gaumont, Paris; Kino International, New York; Janus Films, New York; and Sony Pictures Releasing, Los Angeles.