02 September, 2008
By Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
French actress Isabelle Huppert received a special Award this past weekend at the Montreal World Film Festival for her unique contribution to French and world cinema. One of the great actresses of her generation, Huppert is also being honored with special screenings of several of her films, including the French films Violette Noziere, Madame Bovary and L'Ivresse Du Pouvoir, all directed by her muse, iconic French film director Claude Chabrol and the Western epic Heaven's Gate, which teams Huppert with an all-star cast including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston.
Huppert also stars in the Festival’s Closing Night Film, the North American Premiere screening of Home, the newest film from French/Swiss director Ursula Meier. The film screened at the Theatre Maisonneuve following the announcement of the juried awards (see awards article on Wednesday). Home, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Critics Week, is a Franco-Swiss-Belgian co-production, starring Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet as a husband and wife whose family's peaceful existence in an isolated country home is threatened with the reconstruction of a busy highway nearby.
Ursula Meier was born in Besancon, France and worked as an assistant director on several films of the iconic Swiss director Alain Tanner. After directing several short films, Strong Shoulders, which was screened in Montreal in 2003, she is now making her feature film debut. Home was produced by Archipel 35 and French sales company Memento Films is selling the film internationally.
Isabelle Huppert was born in Paris and spent her childhood in Ville d'Avray. She graduated from the Paris Conservatoire d'Art Dramatique and made her first film, Faustine, when she was 17. Her career accelerated quickly and she worked with some of the cinema world's best known directors, including Bertrand Blier (Les Valseuses, 1974), Otto Preminger (Rosebud, 1975), and Claude Chabrol, with whom she made a trio of films.
Huppert won the Best Actress Award at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival for her role as the murderess in Violette Noziere and a British Academy Award the following year for her role in La Dentelliere (The Lacemaker). In the 1980s, she starred in such celebrated films as Bertrand Tavernier's Coup De Torchon, Jean-Luc Godard's Passion and Diane Kurys' Entre Nous. In the 1990s, she won a Best Actress Cesar for La Ceremonie, again directed by her muse Claude Chabrol.
In recent years, she made an impact as a sexually frustrated piano teacher in director Michael Haneke's controversial La Pianiste (2001). The sometimes disturbing films she appears in may not be the easiest for the audiences to digest, but they have made Huppert a consistent and individual screen presence.