Purple Magazine
— The Paris Issue #31 S/S 2019

givenchy by suffo moncloa

givenchy s/s 19

with isabelle huppert

interview by OLIVIER ZAHM
photography by SUFFO MONCLOA

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is an actress also an intellectual?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes, of course, she can be. But acting isn’t necessarily purely cerebral. Intuition is welcome. But you can be intellectual and intuitive — they are not mutually exclusive.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you use your emotions?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes! But I am wary of emotion… That term is a bit of a cliché. There are a thousand ways emotion can emerge — some ways can be very cold. In The Pianist, I have a line that I like a lot. When the woman is teaching piano, which she values above everything else, she asks her young student: “What does coldness mean to you?” It’s the idea that emotion can emerge from a kind of coldness and not necessarily from sentimentality. Emotion is a dish best served cold.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What does intelligence consist of for an actress of your caliber?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Intelligence is a lot of things. It can be knowing how to read a script or having a feeling for situations and the relationships between people… It’s also about relativizing — having a sense of the absurd and a sense of humor. In short, it’s a lot of work! But I’m no specialist in the matter.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How do you choose a screenplay? I’m sure you get offers left and right. You make a lot of movies.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I do the things that deserve to be done. And there are never as many as you might think. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Many actresses complain that they don’t get to act. You act all the time.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I’m not sure actresses complain so much about that. People project those kinds of thoughts onto them. They wouldn’t project the same ideas onto a man. Of course, we wait for the perfect role, the one that suits us best. But no one ever asks whether a man, too, waits for that role.

OLIVIER ZAHM — In 2018 alone, you made two or three films. In your career, you’ve made over a hundred films — it’s tremendous. You are very prolific.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes, it just happened that way. I don’t have any explanations. I just made a film in Portugal with French and American actors. It’s by the American director Ira Sachs, whose last two films to come out in France were called Love Is Strange and Little Men [Brooklyn Village in France]. I also made a film with a young Chinese director, Flora Lau. At the moment, I am shooting La Daronne by Jean-Paul Salomé.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is the American film in English?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes, and the Chinese film is in Chinese! No, I’m just kidding… Yes, the American film is in English, with some French because Pascal Greggory and Jérémie Renier are in it. So, I spoke French with the French and English with the Americans.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How do you choose your roles? You seem very intuitive in your decision-making: your characters look like you, and they all seem to have something of you in them.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I’m going to answer stupidly and say that they necessarily resemble me because I’m the one who plays them. Same eyes, same hair, same body, same face. So, it’s me. And it also isn’t me. Sometimes they are more immediate versions of the self, and sometimes they are more fantasized. And the fantasized versions don’t necessarily correspond to your appearance on the daily level, with your close family and friends — it’s more of a dream or a fantasy of the self… And all of a sudden, you can express that part of yourself through a character. It’s a back and forth between what you allow people to see and this more private, secretive part of you.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Did you take acting classes when you were starting out?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I went to the Conservatory of Paris.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you had classical training.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I don’t know if you can call it classical, but yes, I took theater classes. I worked on texts that could be qualified as classical with Jean-Laurent Cochet, who was an excellent professor. Many Parisian actors worked with him: Fabrice Luchini, Bernard Giraudeau, Daniel Auteuil, Richard Berry… Compared with Antoine Vitez, who was also my professor, his teaching could be considered classical. But in the end, it really had to do with working on an extremely sharp and intelligent text. Whenever we talk about it today, all of us agree that Cochet was a very good professor who really tackled the text above all else. The text is there, so we might as well face it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — As a French actress who has worked abroad a lot and is well known internationally, what do you think is the image of the French actress, the Parisian actress?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Ah, the Parisian actress… I don’t really know what that is. It’s obviously a cliché. But in French acting, there is perhaps a greater preference, or capacity, to act with the most precious of cinema’s gifts — the possibility of nuance, of intimacy. American actors are extraordinary, and I very often admire their acting, but it is more externalized. There must be a more or less controlled kind of hesitation, something sort of impalpable, which is more French than American. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — You never hesitate to choose difficult roles, which sometimes reflect the violent or evil side of women.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Never. I don’t think it’s evil — violent, unavowable, transgressive, yes, but not evil. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — When taking on these darker roles, do you have any concerns about how they might tarnish your image?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — No, I don’t ask myself that kind of question at all! Very few actresses would ask themselves that.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How has cinema changed since you first started out, when you worked with great directors like Claude Chabrol?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — It hasn’t changed that much. Yes, of course, there’s Netflix and all the TV shows, and the modes of distribution have changed, but the essence of cinema doesn’t change.

OLIVIER ZAHM — People thought cinema would disappear at a certain point with the rise of television.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Disappear — that’s extreme! No, not anytime soon. It may be harder to make certain kinds of more daring films today, but let’s not bury cinema so quickly. If you look at the list of films coming out this week in France, there are Japanese films, a Paraguayan film, films from every country in the world! There’s always the exception that proves the rule. You might say that things aren’t going so well, and then all of a sudden you’ve got a little Paraguayan film like the one that came out this week, which got great reviews. There’s something sustainable, long-lasting in cinema. Granted, this is France — it’s not like this everywhere in the world. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you are not a pessimist by nature?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Not really, no. Of course, if I had been glued to my phone for the past three years waiting for a callback, I might have reason to be pessimistic, but I’m not in that situation. I’m privileged. I know that. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Most importantly, you have an inexhaustible curiosity. You’re also a cinephile — you know cinema very well.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I don’t have time to see every film that comes out. When I work, I can’t see as many as I would like, but I read everything about everything, so I’m informed. I also go to the theater often.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you like fashion?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I like clothing, yes. I enjoy all of that. Let’s say that it’s one of the pleasures in life — in my life, at least.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You also go to runway shows — not just as a special guest but out of personal interest.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — When you’re an actress, fashion is really interesting. Depending on how I am dressed, I’m not the same person. Fashion creates characters, too — it creates ways of moving. And in film, fashion and clothing interest me for the possibilities they offer to a character, a role, another me. All of a sudden, you’re another person. I’m interested in it from that angle. I’m very close to Cindy Sherman, and we like to talk about fashion a lot. She’s a tremendous artist, working within her own world, but she is very interested in fashion, and I understand why. It interests her in the same way it interests me — because of fashion’s transformative power, the possibility it affords of creating characters… That’s also what fashion is about. There’s no reason why an actor should be disinterested in it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And fashion outside of cinema?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — To appear outside of one’s roles is also part of being an actor. But it’s not interesting only in performance — it’s also something I enjoy in my daily life. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — There are directors like Chabrol, for example, who paid a lot of attention to fashion.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Claude, yes, but I’ve worked with directors who were even more into it. To each their own method. There are some directors who intervene in the choice of a color or a specific outfit, while others let the actors work with the costume designer. 

OLIVIER ZAHM — You’ve remained Parisian, and you don’t want to live anywhere else. Do you like Paris?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes, especially because I travel a lot and spend lots of time away. I live in Paris, and I like this city. I’m definitely Parisian, not like others who live “between New York, London, and Paris.”

OLIVIER ZAHM — What is your favorite city?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — It’s hard to say. Paris or New York…

OLIVIER ZAHM — Are you happy here?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes. People say New York is losing steam and that everything is shifting to Los Angeles now. But Paris, still…

OLIVIER ZAHM — Paris holds up?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Paris is holding up very well! There’s an effervescence — theater, exhibitions, lots of things… There’s also a real neighborhood life, which is pleasant. Yesterday, I went to dinner at some friends’ house in Ménilmontant, and all of a sudden I was transported to another environment. There are some neighborhoods like Ménilmontant where you feel like you’re in another world entirely.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is there a Parisian spirit? How would you define it?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Best perhaps not to try to define it! Because Parisians are not the most pleasant or kindest people… People always say Parisians aren’t very friendly, and it’s probably true. Honestly, there are cities where people are much friendlier. We’re not number one in that regard.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Can you talk about your future projects? There’s the film with Eva Ionesco…
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes, the next film is Eva Ionesco’s Une Jeunesse Dorée [A Golden Youth], which looks at her years at Le Palace. Melvil Poupaud and I play two rather decadent characters that she has made up, whereas the young girl at the center of the film plays Eva, and there is her lover, the first man she loved.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Two somewhat diabolical characters who corrupt a young, fragile couple.
ISABELLE HUPPERT — I don’t know if it has to do with corruption because, at the same time, there’s a celebration of freedom and a kind of decadent idealism, which is truly poetic. It’s not diabolical. No, it’s more poetic than anything else. After that, there is Anne Fontaine’s film, Blanche Comme Neige [Pure as Snow]. It’s the story of Snow White, but slightly revised.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You play the terrifying queen, of course?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Yes, I play the evil queen. It’s really a contemporary reinterpretation of Snow White.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is it a feminist re-reading of the Brothers Grimm fairytale?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — A psychoanalytic reinterpretation. It’s feminist in the sense that the film draws two rather bold portraits of women — Snow White and my character, Maud. In the end, Maud comes across as a suffering (rather than cruel) being, while Snow White is all about pleasure.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Not purity or innocence?
ISABELLE HUPPERT — Who said that pleasure is impure or blameworthy? Not the film, in any case! 


Christian Eberhard at MANAGEMENT+ARTIST, hair — Sergio Corvacho using HUDA BEAUTY, make-up — Alex Falba at ARTLIST using OPI, manicurist — Giovanna Martial at ARTLIST, set designer — Isaac Berzosa, photographer’s assistant — Laëtitia Gimenez, stylist’s assistant

[Table of contents]

The Paris Issue #31 S/S 2019

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