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Isabelle Huppert (#110 of 25)

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Anne Fontaine’s Reinventing Marvin

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Anne Fontaine’s Reinventing Marvin

BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Anne Fontaine’s Reinventing Marvin

For anyone who’s read Edouard Louis’s 2014 novel The End of Eddy, a gut-wrenching account of growing up poor and gay in rural France, Reinventing Marvin will feel like a botched job. That’s mostly because the book is so delicately diaristic, having been written by Louis when he was just 19, and before he shot into literary superstardom. Writer-director Anne Fontaine bypasses any attempt at faithfulness to her source material, cutting it into a million pieces and re-assembling the work like a postmodern collage.

As much as Fontaine’s cinematic histrionics are beautiful to watch, like a Frankesteinian feast for the eyes, it’s as if the soul of Louis’s work has been diluted by the filmmaker’s need to reinvent not Marvin, but the literary lineage that makes the project so striking in the first place. Because of the film’s playing with temporality and style, the simplicity and linearity of Louis’s prose is lost. We’re certainly not allowed to spend enough time with the film’s Marvin, played by the eerily melancholic Jules Porier, and ache with him—the kind of identification that The End of Eddy made possible.

Locarno Film Festival 2017 Mrs. Fang, Mrs. Hyde, 3/4, & The Wandering Soap Opera

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Locarno Film Festival 2017: Mrs. Fang, Mrs. Hyde, 3/4, & The Wandering Soap Opera

Locarno Film Festival

Locarno Film Festival 2017: Mrs. Fang, Mrs. Hyde, 3/4, & The Wandering Soap Opera

Albert Serra’s recent The Death of Louis XIV feels like a fictional cousin to Mrs. Fang, winner of the Golden Leopard at this year’s Locarno Film Festival, as Wang Bing’s latest similarly maps out the process by which the glow of a human life is dimmed. Mrs. Fang, a sixtysomething former farmer from rural southeast China, has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. Wang visits her modest family home on two separate occasions: in 2015, when she’s already unable to speak or leave her bed and her family discusses her funeral, and a year later, in the days before her death. Throughout these visits, Wang employs his by-now familiar mode of calm, unadorned observation, moving smoothly between the conversations conducted around Mrs. Fang’s bed, forays outside the cramped home to follow discussions on the street and villagers on fishing trips, and tight close-ups of Mrs. Fang’s face on the pillow—the latter of which suffused with an intimacy so intense that it makes the surroundings disappear and time stand still for a while, despite their only making up a comparatively small part of the film.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Hong Sang-soo’s The Day After and Claire’s Camera

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Cannes Film Review: The Day After and Claire’s Camera

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: The Day After and Claire’s Camera

In 2015, while working on Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong Sang-soo began an affair with his lead actress, Kim Min-hee. The news came out later, at one of the film’s press conferences. Eventually, Hong filed for divorce from his wife of 30 years—and in the time since, he and Kim have chosen to openly explore the nature of their ongoing relationship through his films. First came 2016’s On the Beach Alone at Night, and now the Cannes competition entry The Day After and festival special screening Claire’s Camera.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Michael Haneke’s Happy End

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Cannes Film Review: Happy End

Sony Pictures Classics

Cannes Film Review: Happy End

The latest slow-burn drama from Michael Haneke, Happy End, initially appears to strain for focus. Haneke takes an otherwise compelling theme—every member of the affluent Laurent family is unhappy, most of them unwilling to admit or dwell on their loved ones’ pain—and develops it through sketch-thin characterizations. But as it becomes increasingly clear, Haneke is showing us the various familial influences that contribute to the alienation felt by troubled 13-year-old Eve Laurent (Fantine Harduin), a despondent loner who’s forced to live with her estranged father, Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), after she poisons her biological mother. By juxtaposing various bite-sized vignettes of Eve’s family as they confront various moments of personal grief or weakness, Haneke tells us all we need to know in order to make up our own minds about why Eve behaves the way that she does.

Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions Actress

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Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions: Actress

Lionsgate

Oscar 2017 Winner Predictions: Actress

Those who’ve been paying especial attention to the bylines attached to these articles may have noticed that I’ve largely predicted the categories in which La La Land isn’t nominated. For the conspiracy theorists among you, let me be clear: My complete and utter ambivalence toward Damien Chazelle’s film necessitated that I hand over the reins of the categories in which it is nominated to Eric Henderson, or we would have risked our rolling Oscar prediction coverage rousing the level of excitement of a Jeb Bush rally. And to those who’ve been relishing the shade Eric has been throwing at La La Land, I apologize, because I will not be taking Emma Stone to the library today.

Marrakech International Film Festival A Talk with Shinya Tsukamoto, Honoring Paul Verhoeven, & a Look at The Fixer

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Marrakech International Film Festival: A Talk with Shinya Tsukamoto, Honoring Paul Verhoeven, & a Look at The Fixer

Marrakech International Film Festival

Marrakech International Film Festival: A Talk with Shinya Tsukamoto, Honoring Paul Verhoeven, & a Look at The Fixer

Under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI—to say nothing of the friendly participation of nearly three dozen multinational corporate sponsors—your correspondent was treated to just over a week in Marrakech, for the city’s 16th Marrakesh International Film Festival (FIFM). On the flight from New York, a United Nations employee told me the country’s vertiginous economics weren’t so different from those of the United States, “but the difference is that in Marrakech, you will actually see it.” He wasn’t wrong: The floors of the palatial hotel-resort-spa-compound housing the American critics’ contingent were walked day and night by employees with spray bottles and paper towels, spot-cleaning every last inch of marble and glass for maximum lustre. Cab drivers in permanent turnaround outside the main quadrangle of hotels decried the festival compound for clogging traffic on the palm tree-laden main drag of El Yarmouk Boulevard, while children in the street ambushed American publicists with rose petals after the sun went down—then castigated them for refusing to pay for the privilege.

Cannes Film Review: Elle

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Cannes Film Review: Elle

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: Elle

The Cannes Film Festival saved the best for last: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is an ingenuously constructed drama that roots all of its complexities in matters of character. Isabelle Huppert’s Michéle is a woman gradually revealed in her interactions with others, and in the details she divulges about herself. When she was only 10 years old, she was party to the brutal mass murder committed by her Christian fundamentalist father, a tragedy immortalized in a documentary, The Accused Will Rise, that occasionally airs on French television in the film. The reputation of Michéle’s family has consequently suffered, but the woman’s own self-confidence hasn’t wavered, leading to her considerable success as CEO of an erotic video-game company.

Berlinale 2016 Things to Come

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Berlinale 2016: Things to Come

Sundance Selects

Berlinale 2016: Things to Come

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come offers the most distinctly French pleasures. These include apartment walls entirely filled with books, casual intellectual conversations, a nonchalant attitude toward unfaithfulness, and, most notably, Isabelle Huppert, who plays a resilient philosophy teacher at a high school in Paris. How not to love a film in which all characters seem to have read Arthur Schopenhauer and whose main character is a woman who needs Hannah Arendt more than she needs a man?

Such is Nathalie’s (Huppert) non-plight: a journey into her erudite self-sufficiency. In the film’s most Bergman-esque moment, her husband, Heinz (André Marcon), of 25 years announces, and matter of factly, that he’s met someone and will live with her. Nathalie is disappointed, but hardly crushed—like someone who hears about the death of a distant relative who was ill for a long time. She has other passions after all. Her marriage isn’t contingent to her satisfaction, but more of a defaulted décor to her bourgeois existence. When the husband leaves, she’s most shaken by the gaps left in the living room’s bookshelves. He’s less of a bastard for exchanging her for a younger woman than he is for having taken her copy of Emmanuel Levinas.

Cannes Film Festival 2015 Louder Than Bombs

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Cannes Film Festival 2015: Louder Than Bombs
Cannes Film Festival 2015: Louder Than Bombs

It’s hard to remember exactly when being promoted to the Cannes competition ceased to mean much—the actual moment when festival director Thierry Fremaux decided that giving a platform to the likes of, say, Pedro Costa, Lucrecia Martel, or Apichatpong Weerasethakul (the latter bafflingly downgraded to Un Certain Regard this year) was simply not good for business. The decision to elevate such dully competent, glossily empty fare as Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs to premier-league status serves, if nothing else, as a sobering reminder that those days are gone for good. Yet this isn’t the only artistic downfall that Trier’s film marks, as Isabelle Huppert’s previously sure hand at picking the crème de la crème of contemporary cinema has clearly also gone awry, the venerable French actress coming off here like a profile-hungry Madonna in desperate search of a new Mirwais.