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Happy Birthday, Isabelle Huppert!

by Daniel Crooke

Known most recently from her starring role as "Visiting European Dignitary Whose Queenliness Clearly Outshines Her Present Yankee Company" from the taut, twisty thriller Angels in Awards Season in America, lauded subversive, all-around transgressor, and actressexual heartthrob Isabelle Huppert celebrates her 64th birthday today by doing what we all hope to be doing at sixty-four years of age: still absolutely slaying the game.

Now that she's wrapped up months of feigning surprise on stage while gleefully clutching golden trinkets she has never not deserved, Madame Huppert is back to work...

Her bevy of intriguing new projects in the pipeline includes Michael Haneke's Happy End, Hong Sang-soo's Claire's Camera, and Benoît Jacquot's Eva. If that's too long a wait, you're in luck! A wonderful video of her dancing to Début de Soirée's "Nuit De Folie" at a French party has surfaced on the internet. Tag yourself - I'm the spin that starts the fun!



If you've had your fill of L'Huppert Hoopla (pronounced oop-la) surrounding her virtuosic performances in Elle and Things To Come then, again, you're in luck! She only has one hundred and twenty-four other credits for you to explore and revisit. The reason I personally keep coming back for more is her uncanny ability to wring empathy from a conflicted audience while simultaneously fueling their discomfort or undercutting their own expectations for how a woman should behave. She traps you in her often nonchalant gaze, pulling you into her head without permission. Not that her entire filmography is built on a moral minefield -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a performance as hysterical and heartbreaking as her work in François Ozon's 8 Women -- but when the inevitable, dilemma-drenched detonation hurts this good, there's no reason to complain.

A few of my favorite performances would have to include her walking, talking self-delusion of a plantation baron in Claire Denis' colonial hangover White Material, the mysterious, infantile postal worker gone postal in Claude Chabrol's La Cérémonie, and obviously her swooning-through-stabbing virtuoso who demonstrates the horrific human consequences of sharing yourself in Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher.

How will you celebrate another year of Isabelle Huppert? Long may she reign!

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Reader Comments (9)

Top ten Isabelle Huppert

1 - Story of Women (the best performance I've ever seen in French, one of the top 5 performances I've ever seen, any gender)
2 - The Piano Teacher
3 - Things to Come
4 - Viollette Noziere
5 - Elle
6 - Comedy of Power
7 - Merci pour le Chocolat
8 - La Ceremonie
9 - 8 Women
10 - Ma Mére

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I was about to say Story of Women until Cal beat me to it. It's really the movie where I first sat up and took notice.

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Hollywood

There's great comfort to be had in the fact that Emma Stone in LaLa Land and Isabelle in Elle will age equally well....

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

There's great comfort to be had in the fact that Emma Stone in La La Land and Isabelle in Elle will age equally well


March 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I'm so glad I'm NOT the first here to say Story of Women is one of the best performances ever (for me, the very best really). I really don't understand how she didn't get that nomination (and win, yes, even over Pfeiffer), when she did campaign heavily and Oscar actually noticed her nemesis Adjani for her lesser work in Camille Claudel. The Piano Teacher is obviously in a league of its own, so are Elle and Things to Come (and they came out the same year). But let me tell you about the underrated masterpiece, Heaven's Gate - she's positively luminous in that film, so heartbreaking, it really, once again, blows away the Best Actress competition (either 1980 or 1981). That movie and Michael Cimino is one of the most unfairly destroyed figures of movie history.

For me, her 10 best performances:
1. Story of Women
2. Heaven's Gate
3. The Piano Teacher
4. The Lacemaker
5. Things to Come
6. Elle
7. La cérémonie
8. Merci pour le chocolat
9. Malina
10. Valley of Love

But give me Huppert any time of the day and I'll be fine. I hope the Academy can make up for their stupid mistake with Happy End. Fingers crossed. It wouldn't change anything for Isabelle, but it would be good for Oscar and an honor for the Academy. :P

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterdinasztie

Happy Birthday 2016 Best Actress Oscar Winner, ISABELLE HUPPERT!
Yes she won in my mind and Emma's win is ALREADY aging terribly.

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

64? She looks younger than that. Plus, her dancing is just awesome. Plus, I would love to see her do another musical. She was great in 8 Femmes and kind of stole the film from everyone.

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I have not been back to this site since la reine Isabelle failed to clinch the Oscar statuette. But when I did today on occasion of her 64th, what a pleasant surprise to see a whole write-up dedicated to her (thanks Daniel Crooke -- you write so beautifully and I agree with what you wrote). Great to read the accolades written here in the comments section as well. Much as many of us wish she won the Oscar, I am sure her legend increased even more by not winning it.

I agree with much of Isabelle's lauded films that were mentioned here, but let me take a moment to spotlight one of her fairly recent but overlooked films:

In a Foreign Country, Hong-sang Soo (South Korea, 2012)
She played Anne in the three vignettes that make up the film. Mostly improvisational, each vignette captures Isabelle in different situations in the same setting, same set of characters, same set of actors playing those characters. By turns exhilarating, awkward and authentically spontaneous it's great to see Isabelle play variations of Anne communicating in a foreign language and navigating through a culturally foreign milieu. The film centers and revolves around her and I wonder if much of what one sees in the film is as close as possible to seeing how Isabelle reacts in real-life situations. There is a sexual tension between all variations of Anne and the lifeguard she meets in the beach in the three vignettes. There's this scene where the lifeguard (Joon-sang Yoo) sang a song to Anne inside a camping tent that is so disarming and direct and in-the-pocket that complements Isabelle's ethos in acting -- spontaneous and lived in. The film doesn't really have an actual plot in each vignette just like real life, but at the end of the three stories you get an intimate sense of place, character and situation. This is not for everyone though.

Love her dancing in the video btw. Although not professional, I'd like to DJ for a soirée where she'll dance the way she does in the clip.

March 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

"Happy Birthday 2016 Best Actress Oscar Winner, ISABELLE HUPPERT!
Yes she won in my mind and Emma's win is ALREADY aging terribly."

"There's great comfort to be had in the fact that Emma Stone in LaLa Land and Isabelle in Elle will age equally well...."
Absolutely not.

March 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

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