Wo-man! Isabelle Huppert
15 – 31 March 2013

                                                             “I always feel misunderstood, yet that is also what I seek.”

                                                                               Isabelle Huppert

 Pera Film and l’Institut français will be celebrating International Women’s Day throughout the month of March with an exclusive program saluting the exceptional work of Isabelle Huppert. One of the most enduring and respected actresses in French cinema, Isabelle Huppert is known for her versatile portrayals of characters ranging from the innocent to the sultry to the comic.  She is as renowned for her portrayals of fragile, wide-eyed innocents as for her roles as devious, strong-willed vamps.  Her performances are both mesmerizing and convincing, often to the extent that the spectator is drawn helplessly into the drama, hooked by an uncanny empathy with the actress.

Choose from one of many screenings this weekend:


Director: Maurice Pialat
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Guy Marchand
France, 110’, 1980, color
French with Turkish subtitles 

Maurice Pialat’s character study eschews traditional plot development in its examination of the power of sex and passion to overturn class restrictions and social conventions. Huppert is Nelly, a middle-class Parisian housewife; married to possessive husband Andre. When she meets street thug Loulou, her middle-class respectability is thrown out the window and she leaves Andre for Loulou. Loulou, who has no job and resorts to robbery to survive, is more than willing to live off Nelly’s money. But Andre won’t give her up and, in the mind-set of a middle-class bourgeois, tries to convince her to return.

White Material

Director: Claire Denis
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Isaach De Bankolé
France, 106’, 2009, color
French with Turkish subtitles 

In White Material, the great contemporary French filmmaker Claire Denis, known for her restless, intimate dramas, introduces an unforgettably crazed character. Played ferociously by Isabelle Huppert, Maria is an entitled white woman living in Africa, desperately unwilling to give up her family’s crumbling coffee plantation despite the civil war closing in on her. Created with Denis’ signature full-throttle visual style, which places the viewer in the center of the maelstrom, White Material is a gripping evocation of the death throes of European colonialism and a fascinating look at a woman lost in her own mind.

Isabelle Huppert: A Life to Play

Director: Serge Toubiana
France, 52’, 2001, color
French with Turkish subtitles 

Serge Toubiana followed Isabelle Huppert and her lifestyle for one year. With her, we reflect on the “album” of her life. The images flow: films of her childhood, the important moments in her career, interspersed with interviews, impressing rehearsals, scenes from films, and ordinary walks, in the center of a crowd that does not recognize her. We are given an insider’s view of a remarkable actress, a discreet woman, who, in this portrait, gives us a glimpse at her emotions, her vocation, and her life.

La Cérémonie

Director: Claude Chabrol
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacqueline Bisset
France, 112’, 1995, color
French with Turkish subtitles

In the 1960s and early ’70s, Claude Chabrol was celebrated as the Gallic Hitchcock for his crisp, character-rich thrillers. La Cérémonie, his 1997 hit adapted from Ruth Rendell’s novel A Judgement in Stone, is a return to form, an assured domestic drama set in the upper-class household of the kind but condescending Lelievres family. Sandrine Bonnaire, excellent in an enigmatic, uncommunicative role, stars as their new, neurotically silent maid Sophie. She performs her duties efficiently and emotionlessly, staring out from behind an implacable, mask-like face born of loneliness and defensiveness. Isabelle Huppert is the town’s gleefully misanthropic postmistress Jeanne, a gossipy, energetically insolent misfit who hates the Lelievres. When she becomes Sophie’s best friend, her pathological game of taunts and gossip goes into overdrive with her sudden access to their house, and an already simmering class conflict boils over in unleashed anger. Chabrol charts the cascade of mischief and misunderstandings to its shattering conclusion, with sensitivity to character and an eagle-eyed remove that makes the explosive climax all the more chilling. It’s a devastating thriller, one of Chabrol’s best, and a powerful portrait in hate and psychosis pushed over the edge in misunderstanding, manipulation, and mistrust. Jacqueline Bisset is the fumbling but sincere Mme. Lelievres, Jean-Pierre Cassel her complacent husband, and Virginie Ledoyen (A Single Girl) their sensitive young daughter.

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