Tag Archives: Isabelle Huppert

TIFF18: Greta

Frances is travelling home on the subway when she spots a forgotten purse. Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) puts her good samaritan hat on and decides to return it to the owner personally. Greta (Isabelle Huppert) is grateful and touched by the gesture, and though they’re an unlikely pair, they form a friendship. Greta is a lonely widow with an estranged daughter and a hole in her life. Frances is working as a waitress while she tries to find direction for her life without the help of a mother (who passed). So you might say the two fill slots in each other’s hearts, and therefore their friendship blossoms quickly. Frances’s roommate Erica (Maika Monroe) doesn’t get what her friend sees in the older woman, but there’s a certain comfort there – not a replacement for her mother of course, but a sense of validation and care in a world where fewer and fewer genuine connections are made.

But this is not a movie about female friendship. One evening, when Frances is eating dinner at Greta’s house, she stumbles upon a cupboard filled with purses identical to theMV5BNTFmZjI3OTItNjZjNi00NWFjLTgyN2ItNzA5MjAyOGRhNjBmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQ1MTYzNzY@._V1_ one she found and returned. They all have ID and similar contents, and they’ve all been labelled with a name and number, presumably of the person who has returned it. Confused and appalled, Frances makes a hasty exit. But it’s too late. Greta has decided that Frances will be her friend. For life. Like it or not. Which is when things get stalkery. The police are no help, of course. They don’t intervene until some major shit has gone down. And believe me it’s about to go down.

Isabelle Huppert puts the psycho into psychodrama. The ramp she builds up toward sinister is subtle, and the one toward crazy quite steep. She is simply fantastic: invasive, desperate, psychotic. Watching her dance around was one of the highlights of the whole festival. She’s deranged in a way that makes you want to laugh, just slightly, until you get those chills down your spine.

Director Neil Jordan builds some terrific suspense but doesn’t always know what to do with it. Greta veers wildly from off-the-wall original to quite predictable. But its unevenness isn’t going to stop Greta from being one of those movies that people talk about. It might even become a cult hit. Huppert lives up to it, deserves to be recognized as a cult villain icon. Isabelle Huppert is a queen, Greta is a witch, and this movie will stick with you for longer than you’d like.

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Elle

Michèle is attacked in her home, brutally raped by a man in a ski mask. She cleans up the mess, and herself. She doesn’t reveal the assault for several days, when she calmly tells a tableful of friends at a restaurant. Her response may seem a little cold to some, but she’s grappling with it, in fact reliving it all the time (which means we get to witness the rape repeatedly). Michèle has some childhood trauma that makes her distrustful of the police, but after the attack she continues to get threatening text messages that keep her on edge.

Michèle, the character, is an interesting woman. She’s a successful businesswoman, the boss at a video game company with a lot of young men working under her, with varying degrees of respect, resentment, and lust toward her. She has a grown son who is increasingly under the thumb of his pregnant girlfriend, and thus more estranged from his elle-6mother. She has exes, lovers, and erotic fixations. Some of them may surprise you. She reminds us that there are many ways to respond to this kind of violation, and none of them are necessarily wrong. But victimhood does not sit well with Michèle; Michèle plots revenge. Michèle’s complexity is a welcome layer to this psychological thriller, and it’s superbly executed by Isabelle Huppert. Huppert won the Golden Globe for her performance and is nominated for an Oscar, and it’s easy to see why. This is a career best for her, and she’s not exactly a slouch.

The harder pill to swallow is that Elle is directed by Paul Verhoeven – THAT Verhoeven; Showgirls Verhoeven. Verhoeven’s filmography is, erm, varied. Neither Robocop nor Starship Troopers really signal that he’s capable of this kind of film. Tonally it resembles Basic Instinct most closely, but this work still shows more maturity  and more nuance than we’ve perhaps seen from him before. Maybe this is owing to the film’s source material, the book ‘Oh…’ by Philippe Dijan.

Things To Come

Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a philosophy teacher who takes pleasure in thinking and inner life. She’s a recent empty-nester with a rocky marriage and a demanding mother. If she were to suddenly be shed of all those ‘obligations,’ would it be tragic or frankly freeing?

The very plot of this movie, languid as it is, is a bit of a philosophical question: how to reinvent one’s life at every stage, even (especially) when you don’t have control over what’s happening. It’s a nuanced, detail-oriented portrait that offers lots of little observational gifts that rewards close attention.

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things To Come (L’avenir) is about a woman who is 201609145_5_img_fix_700x700picking up the pieces of her middle age and trying to formulate some acceptable version of the future for herself. She’s disconnected from her youth and perhaps her old passions, but she’s not done, far from it. The film, and Huppert’s performance, has a stiff upper lip: she submits to a series of diminishments with cool detachment, but we watch as these changes slowly affect her relationships, even the one she has with philosophy.

Isabelle Huppert has had a busy year at the movies, and this film is proof positive as to why: she’s exceptional. Here she gives a performances that is restrained, wary, economical, but never closed off. She’s accessible even in her reserve. Her director, Hansen-Løve, is traditional but meticulous in her story-telling. Compositions are beautiful, editing is fluid, each frame simple and still. The focus is on Nathalie, who appears in nearly every minute of the film, as she grapples with change while trying to remain her stoic self. The film is about charting a new course, sometimes late into life, and the effect an uncertain future will have on a body. But at it’s most basic, Things To Come is about a woman still struggling with identity, and there is no actress better suited to the role that Huppert, who pulls off uncertainty with dignity and aplomb.

 

 

NHFF 2016 – You in?

We’ve still got a few straggly posts from the Toronto Film Festival and the Animation Festival, but we’re already looking ahead to our favourite trip of the year: Portsmouth. Portsmouth hosts the New Hampshire Film Festival and it’s about as scenic as it gets (and getting scenickier by the day, this time of year).

NHFF has just released a pretty stellar lineup of films, which you can peruse at your leisure here. I know I’m already looking forward to several:

Stray, about a Muslim refugee who befriends a stray dog.

The Eyes of My Mother, about a woman consumed by dark desires after a tragedy. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve certainly heard about it from fellow film fanatic, Film Grimoire. I’m just trying to work up the intestinal fortitude.

Things to Come: A philosophy teacher played by Isabelle Huppert soldiers through the pain of grief.

God Knows Where I Am: a heart-wrenching documentary that I’ve seen and can’t wait to show to Sean and Matt.

I’m not sure you can lose with all the great movies they’re screening (we didn’t see a single bad one last year) but I’m not just excited for the movies. Portsmouth is a town with character. It’s such a vivid and friendly place that I can’t wait to revisit. Also clam chowder.

Since so many of you commented last year that you didn’t know about this charming festival ahead of time, consider this your fair warning. We’ll be there for the duration and we hope to see you too. Who’s in?

Mother-Daughter Movies

TMPIt’s time for Thursday movie picks! This week we’re covering movies featuring mother-daughter relationships, which means I for one have been through about 6 boxes of tissues while deciding which are my absolute favourites. Thanks once again to spectacular blogger Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting this weekly meeting of the minds.

Matt

While I’m relieved not to be watching live-action fairy tales or YA movies anymore, this was harder than I thought. About a month ago, I had no trouble making a list of classic father-son dynamics but to mother-daughter relationships- that call for not one but two great roles for women- are a little harder to find in Hollywood.

Mamma Mia! At first, my strategy was to name as many Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton moviesmm7_L as I could. This only got me a third of the way there when I remembered Mamma Mia!, the only American movie on my list. Judge me all you want but I love this musical. Yes, the cast was clearly chosen for their comic timing and definitely not their singing voices but their energy with the help of lots of Abba music make this a party I wish I was at. When searching for the father she never knew, a 20 year-old soon-to-be bride comes to realize how little she appreciated the mother who brought her up all by herself.

Jay: Consider yourself judged, Matt.

The Piano Teacher The dynamic between mother and daughter can be as messed up as any piano-teacherand who better to explore just how bad it can get than Austrian director Michel Hanake. Never afraid to make his audience squirm, Hanake (Funny Games) cast Annie Giradot as a mom that makes Carrie’s look permissive. Isabelle Huppert plays a forty-something pianist who shares not only an apartment but a bed with her controlling, perfectionist, and manipulative mother. All this withholding and repression leads to some pretty bizarre behaviour when the daughter meets a young man that she can’t help but be attracted to. Watching it can be an uncomfortable experience but it’s never dull and is sure to inspire lively discussions- even debates.

Volver Penelope Cruz got her first Oscar nomination for Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 Spanish volver-cruz-cobocomedy-drama. Carmen Maura plays mother to both Cruz and Lola Duenas, seemingly back from the dead to seek the forgiveness of her estranged daughter. There’s some serious stuff here but Volver is also surprisingly funny. It’s a hard film to categorize but an easy one to love.

 

Sean

terms_of_endearment_3_maclaine_wingerTerms of Endearment – I saw this movie for the first time yesterday and right away I wondered how I had not seen it before. The opening credits contain so many recognizable names and everyone lives up to expectations. It is not an easy movie to watch because it seems so real. It’s not often a happy movie but it’s so genuine and for that reason above all else I think it will stick with me for a while. I highly recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t seen it.

Spanglish I didn’t even realize until now that this was also written and directed by James L. Brooks (just like Terms of Endearment). Score two for him because this movie is also fantastic. Like Terms of Endearment, it is also not very happy but comparing these movies is a disservice to both. Spanglish stands on its own as a story of true love and sacrifice. Just don’t watch these two movies back to back as you may never recover from all the heartbreak.1112065277

Jay: I can’t believe I let you do this one! I love Spanglish because their cultural isolation really pits the two of them against the world. Even when they occasionally hate each other, they’re still each other’s entire universe, and when other options start to present themselves, this mother is prepared to make the hard choices. You know this movie gets me every time, to see how close the mother gets to love and fullfillment but turns her back on it because she knows it’s best for her daughter.

Freaky Friday (1976) The third slot was a tough one beacuse while I watched several other Freaky-Friday-classic-disney-18104673-900-506mother-daughter movies this week, I felt the other tearjerkers didn’t hit the mark. I went another way. I have to make 100% clear that this is the original Freaky Friday, not the remake. I did not see this movie as a kid, mainly because I confused it with the Friday the 13th series and horror movies terrified me. It’s very dated but it’s fun to see a young Jodie Foster try to act like a regular kid and then do a very accurate impression of herself as adult who happens to be pretending to be a regular kid.

Jay

I’m having a tough time paring down this list. I watched Autumn Sonata (Ingrid fucking Bergman!) which succeeds in being uncomfortable and intense despite subtitles. And I watched Imitation of Life, which pitted parenting styles against each other with equally depressing results. And I watched Because I Said So because frankly, how could I not? As Matt pointed out,acc3e0404646c57502b480dc052c4fe1 Diane Keaton is just screaming to be on this list, and this film with 3 sisters and a meddling mother is a comforting exercise in voyeurism. And Pixar’s Brave – I love the circularity in that relationship, the growth experienced by both women and the understanding that comes with it. And The Kids Are All Right – there’s so much here in terms of a family coming to terms with shifting roles, and it’s striking how much the two mothers complement each other. And Sherrybaby. And Easy A (love Patricia Clarkson in that!). And Anywhere But Here. And Mother and Child. Nothing like a major health crisis to flush out your Netflix queue!

But fuck it. Steel Magnolias, baby. There, I said it. It’s goopy and sentimental but you know 5a64037be0d86f25_steel_jpeg_previewwhat? The relationship at its core, Sally Field and Julia Roberts, feels absolutely genuine. Julia Roberts plays a young woman with diabetes, and Sally Field the constantly-worried mother. Both are headstrong but you can tell that Mom is secretly proud that her daughter is determined not to let her illness stop her from living on her own terms. Sally Field will give anything, including body parts, to keep her daughter going, but when the worst happens, the grief and anger are palpable and real.  For my money, Sally Field talking to her comatose daughter is just about the most heart-wrenching tribute to motherhood you’re apt to find.

And Mermaids. I can’t help it. The family situation reminds me so much of my own – just a mom mermaidsposterand her girls on their own in the world. It’s not always easy, or friendly. When you fight you fight big, but you love big too. And the dancing in the kitchen: yes! I love Cher’s awkward stabs at motherhood – the funny little food and the ill-timed advice – and Christina Ricci’s weird little pumpkin-headed wiggles.

 

Now Voyager is the ultimate in family dysfunction. A hateful and over-bearing mother stifles her daughter NowVoyager-Still6(played by the inesteemable Bette Davis) into a nervous breakdown that turns out to be her weird salvation. Of course, upon return, the now glammed up and self-assured daughter is again reduced to a puddle in the face of her unfeeling mother.