I don’t remember exactly how Isabelle Huppert came into my life. She presented an award on the very first Oscar telecast that I ever watched, handing the Gordon E. Sawyer Award to zoom lens developer Pierre Angenieux in a pre-taped segment from Geneva, Switzerland, but I don’t think she made an impression that night. The first film I watched her in was either Hal Hartley’s Amateur or Claude Chabrol’s Madame Bovary, I still can’t recall which, I never will, and around that time, I discovered Chabrol’s La Cérémonie and watched it about ten times before calling a group of friends and making them come over to watch it too (they liked it, don’t worry). My only other memory of her after that was that every time I taped a French movie off TV, I would hope against hope that it was one of her films, that she’d just magically appear (and in truth that only happened once, when I taped Chabrol’s Rien Ne Va Plus aka The Swindle).
Not that hoping to find a movie with Isabelle Huppert is in any way a challenge, for as I glance at her IMDb page I see 149 acting credits plus three in production. Those memories I relate to you were more than twenty years ago and, in that time, I have managed to get quite a few of those credits before my eyeballs and even enjoyed meeting her briefly, getting her to sign my program backstage after a performance of Phèdre at BAM Harvey in Brooklyn in 2016. She is the actor whose films I have watched the most (I know, I’ve counted). The ground that her career has covered is immense, regarding both directors and styles. Her first year working in cinema, in 1972 when she was 19 and fresh from the Conservatoire national supérieur d’art dramatique, she appeared in César et Rosalie for Claude Sautet, and by the end of the decade had worked with the likes of Bertrand Blier, Otto Preminger, Bertrand Tavernier, André Téchiné and Chabrol, who would prove to be one of her most fruitful and successful collaborations. She has played tragic heroines and indomitable paragons, matrons and ingenues, appeared in French sex farces, American epics, Asian comedies and even an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
In terms of her biography, the less said, the better: Huppert generally avoids, with no exception, any questions about her personal life and feels it brings nothing interesting to any discussion about her work. The short end of it is that she is the youngest of five children born to a safe manufacturer and an English teacher. She was encouraged to go into acting by her mother, and celebrated for her talent almost immediately. Her brief appearance in Blier’s Going Places (Les Valseuses), a transgressively sexy film in which she plays a hitchhiker who asks the film’s two male stars to relieve her of her virginity in the closing scene, brought her prominence. Huppert performance a year later in Liliane de Kermadec’s Aloïse brought her first César nomination (she currently holds a Meryl-esque record of sixteen).
In 1977, she won the BAFTA for Best Newcomer for Claude Goretta’s The Lacemaker, still one of her most cited early performances, and in 1978 won her first Best Actress prize at Cannes, for Chabrol’s Violette Nozière. Her second, for Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (La Pianiste), made her one of only four actresses to have double Cannes prizes, plus she holds the record for the most films entered into the festival’s official competition (twenty-two at press time). She is also the most nominated actor for a Molière Award (the French Tony). Huppert’s near forty-year relationship with producer and film distributor Ronald Chammah has resulted in three children, her eldest daughter Lolita a frequent co-star as well as an actress in her own right, while her middle son Lorenzo runs the two Parisian cinemas that she bought and saved from closure.
A film lover herself, Huppert has often been drawn to roles because of directors, seeking out masters with impressive filmographies while also initiating collaborations with newcomers in whom she recognizes a spark. Aside from the oft-cited Chabrol, she has, since her first Cannes win, added Jean-Luc Godard, Maurice Pialat, Diane Kurys, Joseph Losey, Paul Cox, Werner Schroeter, Hal Hartley, Benoît Jacquot, Olivier Assayas, Michael Haneke, François Ozon, Christophe Honoré, Claire Denis, Hong Sang-Soo, Catherine Breillat, Joachim Trier, Mia Hansen-Løve, Paul Verhoeven, Ira Sachs and Jerzy Skolimowski to the list. A Hollywood crossover, the standard mark of success for European actors as far as North American audiences are concerned, was not in the cards, at least not in as verifiable a way as it was later on for the likes of Juliette Binoche or Julie Delpy. Huppert’s first venture into American cinema, Heaven’s Gate, was as famous a disaster as there would be in that decade and she doesn’t pop up in an American film again until Curtis Hanson’s The Bedroom Window seven years later. Appearances in David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees and Ned Benson’s much beleaguered The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby did little to change this, but after her success with Verhoeven’s Elle in 2016, which included her first Academy Award nomination, the English-language market opened up somewhat to her with roles in films like Neil Jordan’s Greta and last year’s Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.
So what is it that us fans, to whom I have given the mellifluous appellation of “Isabellicans”, love so much about this mysterious, fascinating actor? To her detractors, she is overrated for underplaying everything and brings nothing special to the situations she portrays, while her frequently appearances in roles that require brave acts of humiliation that she performs so fearlessly are seen, by some, as cheap tricks for attention. I have a drinking game that I’ve created with my best Isabellican friend, someone with whom I have been kicked off a sidewalk by a very dedicated TIFF employee for having the audacity to wait for an autograph, where we take a shot every time an Isabelle Huppert movie shows her cutting herself, choking on her dinner, making sweet love to a very close relative or screaming “lâche-moi!” to someone grabbing her. To focus on the dark stuff is to ignore the abandon with which she plays comedy, happily broadening her expressions in roles like Ozon’s 8 Women or Serge Bozon’s Tip Top (both films she’s done for Bozon are interesting roles for her, and both are unconscionably bad films).
The short answer to why we love her is energy. French actors, more than in any other film industry, have mastered the art of making nothing feel fascinating on camera, at least in their “cinéma d’auteur” and Huppert is at the top of the heap for those who aren’t doing anything you can quantify or define but grab you and won’t let you go. She provokes controversy in interviews when she states that, for her, an actor is not artist, she believes her job is simply to facilitate communication between the author and the artist, and the less you notice her technique the more she is allowing the material to do its magic. There’s a difference, however, in the wavelengths she projects in various characters that isn’t just intellectual thought, her very body projects different energies that show a deep intuition for the different spheres of life she is portraying. The innocent affection of The Lacemaker, the childlike naivete with which she pursues her desires in The Story of Women, itself a fascinating contrast with the perpetual, nerve-jangling anxiety she brings to La Cérémonie are just some examples. In Elle, a crowning achievement that is sadly missing from Criterion’s collection of her films this month, she keeps a brittle level of humour running alongside her defiant yet curious attitude towards a man who has broken into her house and raped her but, thanks to her childhood experiences, hasn’t altered her conception of the sick society she has lived in her whole life.
Criterion’s collection of films starring Huppert, marking March 16, 2023 as the celebration of her seventieth birthday, doesn’t have anything special to offer the already dedicated fan. Not one of the films that I have had to search far and wide to see is here, and it’s a shame that Chabrol’s Nightcap and Violette Nozière are not included, as well as at least one Schroeter selection (I’m partial to Deux) or a lighter entry like My Worst Nightmare or Les Sœurs fâchées.
For the uninitiated, however, this collection is a great opportunity to see Isabelle Huppert at almost all the key stages of her career (almost, that is, because it ignores the seventies) and understand the hold she has had on viewers for so long. When my friend met her and asked her how did she it all, managing so many films as well as plays, Huppert’s answer was to shrug and say “I like to work.” When I met her, I told her she was my favourite actress and got a very polite “Thank you very much.” We took a selfie together and she checked her hair in the camera before I took it, then made sure to give me back my pen after signing everyone’s program with it. It’s her birthday, but the privilege is all mine.
Reviews are by Bil Antoniou, except where noted, avec la participation amicale de Marko Djurdjic, Barbara Goslawski and Courtney Small, with thanks for their generous contributions.
MUST-SEE ISABELLE HUPPERT
Loulou (Maurice Pialat, 1980)
Pialat had an ability to make you feel as if you were dropped into the most exciting parts of people’s real lives, many of his films have an improvised spontaneity that belies their actually having been scripted and rehearsed. One of his most electric films is his only collaboration with Huppert, a terrific, comedic and devilishly sexy exploration of a woman’s Careful What You Wish fantasy fulfillment. She plays a bourgeoise who grows tired of her marriage with Guy Marchand and takes up with a ruffian she meets at a nightclub (played by Pialat’s frequent collaborator Gérard Depardieu), abandoning one for the other thanks to Depardieu’s penchant for all-night hotel room sex and the occasional night time robbery. How long, though, before an illegitimate relationship becomes a real one and the mundane realities that bugged her about her husband start to creep in here as well, and how long before she realizes she’s just not cut out to live on the seedier side of the City of Lights. The chemistry between the stars could power a rocket into space and they both give what is up there with their finest performances, the two of them not reunited on screen again until Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love in 2015, which was produced by Pialat’s widow Sylvie.
Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
Barbara Goslawski: This legendary critical and financial disaster is enjoying a renaissance of late, and rightly so. With enough distance from the negative press surrounding its making and the director’s excesses, many critics and cinephiles are now appreciating the pure spectacle of Cimino’s epic Western. With this follow up to the critically acclaimed The Deer Hunter (1978), Cimino was given free reign but, unfortunately, his meticulous demands pushed the budget to $44 million, practically bankrupting United Artists and resulting in its demise, with many arguing that it marked the end of the New Hollywood era of the seventies. Nevertheless, Cimino’s expensive gamble paid off, as this sumptuous vision has a magical energy that is often riveting. Starring Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken, the film is loosely based on the war that broke out in Wyoming in the 1890’s between the Cattlemen’s Association and the impoverished newcomer European settlers. Huppert is Ella Watson, a local madam and love interest, a refreshingly breezy performance in a film that sometimes gets bogged down in its own details, and it’s ironic that the studio was opposed to her casting. Heaven’s Gate remains an impressive deconstruction of the Western genre but sometimes its necessary macho energy dulls its core, betraying Cimino’s efforts to reach a kind of cinematic nirvana and blunting the cogent anti-war statement he so obviously seeks. The genius of the film lies in his visual strategy, one that insists on perpetual motion, his camera never stays still and he often creates elaborate compositions that flow with or against it (the roller-skating scene, for example, simply must be seen). That exuberant vitality at the film’s core, while ultimately unsustainable, often achieves transcendence. Huppert’s effervescent presence is perfect in this context and remains irresistible.
Entre nous (Diane Kurys, 1983)
One of the very best films to come out of France in the eighties, and a masterpiece for Kurys. Just after the second World War, two women (Huppert, Miou-Miou) are in circumstantially-influenced marriages before meeting at a school pageant and becoming best friends, eventually realizing that there is much more love between them than with their men. This does not go down too well with their spouses, and Huppert’s (Guy Marchand) reacts quite violently while Miou-Miou’s (Jean-Pierre Bacri) descends further into his selfish existence. Stunningly photographed to look like a film from the period it depicts, this features a top-notch performance from Miou-Miou (who sheds her sex kitten image without the slightest sign of effort) and one of the most vibrant and exciting turns by the always incomparable Huppert.
La cérémonie (Claude Chabrol, 1995)
A late-life masterpiece and one of the director’s finest films, this is also the movie that finally won Huppert the César on her eighth nomination (she has received another and eight more nominations since). Sandrine Bonnaire is riveting as a mysterious maid who comes to live at the country home of a wealthy family, enacting all her duties with care and precision while hiding her illiteracy from her employers. She meets the local town’s postal clerk (Huppert), a nosy, irreverent gossip, and their friendship prompts Bonnaire to start to respond to the microaggressions she experiences as member of the underprivileged. Chabrol’s perpetual fascination with class war was never preachy and certainly saw justice as a zero sum game, his focus is always on tension and he holds all parties responsible for the miseries of human life: Bonnaire’s employers may be entitled but they’re also honest, while the two modern-day Papin sisters are rightfully angry at the ways in which they are undervalued but aren’t above petty obsessions or hypocrisy.
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)
Haneke’s style of quiet control is perfectly suited to his presentation of Vienna’s classical music scene, in which participants must walk a high-wire of excellence both in their professional and domestic spheres, held to impossible standards by creative masters as well as relentlessly critical mothers. The damage this does to a repressed soul shows itself most clearly in Huppert’s Erika Kohut, who seeks out sensual experiences in the forms of voyeurism and self-mutilation, until a student named Walter (Benoît Magimel) expresses a passionate interest in her. Rather than give into anything as conventional as a love affair, Erika instead instructs Walter in her sadomasochistic desires, to which he responds by drawing her into a complicated struggle for the upper hand. Considered by many the very definition of Huppert’s mastery as an actor as well as her fearlessness, this performance earned her a unanimously-voted Best Actress prize at Cannes as well as Best Actor for Magimel and the Grand Prize (aka 2nd place) for Haneke. Haneke employs his usual austerity in revealing to his heroine the unforeseen dimensions of what were actually impractical desires, but he also finds surprising reserves of genuine sympathy for the emotions she is trying to release via unconventional methods, and Huppert’s facial expressions, always looking like a dam about to break, draw as much fascination as heartbreak from the viewer.
White Material (Claire Denis, 2009)
Denis’ best film since Beau Travail returns her to Africa, where Huppert runs a coffee plantation in a French-controlled state and refuses to acknowledge the reality of what is going on around her: rebels are violently driving their foreign overseers out and there’s a marked breakdown in social order. The opposite of the kind of plush prestige that Out of Africa delivered, this was criticized by some for being too uncomplicated, but Denis isn’t interested in arguing the details of history, seeking instead to capture, in that atmospherically enchanting way of hers, the inevitable chaos that colonialism leaves in its wake.
Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)
After a few years of uninspired projects in which she was more or less hired to perform her trademark Isabellisms, a low-lidded gaze here, an inscrutable smile there, 2016 saw Huppert grab hold of critical acclaim in a way she hadn’t in years, earning an Oscar nomination for Paul Verhoeven’s savage, stylish and mordantly funny Elle, singing Pink Martini songs in the sadly underseen Souvenir and displaying a breathtaking ease with the world of academia that Hansen-Løve creates in the film that was a breakthrough of sorts for her as well. A philosophy professor whose life is lined up properly in all the right places experiences a year in which everything falls apart, including the waning interest of her publishers to keep her books in print (in the last major country to enjoy promoting intellectual celebrities), her husband leaving her for a younger woman, her mother declining in health and her children growing up and no longer needing her. This newfound solitude is also newfound freedom, which she applies to reconnecting with a former student (Roman Kalinka, son and grandson of two former Huppert co-stars, Marie and Jean-Louis Trintignant) and trying on the revolutionary, communal life he is leading in the French countryside. As a mature adult who left such idealism behind her years ago, however, she finds that to move forward she must create a new version of independent identity in a world that is no longer making room for her. Hansen-Løve has a remarkable ability, reminiscent of Rohmer and Varda before her, of making things seem effortless and natural but important and significant at the same time, all the surprises that push life in new directions for Huppert’s character unfold with a sense of process that highlights the character’s ability to carry through regardless of the challenges that face her.
EO (Jerzy Skolimowski, 2022)
Marko Djurdjic: In Skolimowski’s philosophical tale about a wandering donkey, Huppert plays The Countess, the stepmother to a disgraced priest who adopts EO for a brief moment and saves him from ending up in a sausage factory, making an uncharacteristically short appearance that is charged with her trademark cool intensity. Although she only has two short scenes and a few lines (spoken in Italian!), she inevitably steals the show (well, almost steals the show: this donkey really is a ~*star*~). Throughout, Skolimowski presents EO as present and intelligent, he doesn’t just look, he observes, feels, loves! Lush and lyrical while also firmly rooted in the beautiful, disturbing complexities of the real world, EO is a sincere, compassionate and humane film, one that delves into the deepest bonds we share with animals and nature, and vice versa. Here, animals are not just observed objects on whom we imprint our politics and emotions, our anxieties and traumas, our love and our hate: instead, those feelings are unapologetically—and consciously—manifested through EO, our braying hero, and friend. Prepare a tissue (or three).
Every Man for Himself (Jean-Luc Godard, 1980)
Huppert was working with high-profile directors from the beginning of her feature film career but took one of her first forays into the avant-garde with her first of two collaborations with Godard, a project that he considered his “second first film”. Three characters are the primary focus of a more lighthearted than usual examination of the master’s favourite theme of capitalism’s corrosion of society, a film director named Godard (Jacques Dutronc), his television producer girlfriend (Nathalie Baye) and a sex worker (Huppert), the latter of whose experiences are presented in opposition to the couple. It won’t satisfy anyone hoping for melodrama, but those who tire of the great artist’s usual navel-gazing will be happy to see that he focuses on human beings and their psychological inner life, instead of boiling things down to endless examinations of the meaning of words or advertising slogans. This film is also known as Slow Motion.
Story of Women (Claude Chabrol, 1988)
Marko Djurdjic: Huppert plays Marie, a mother of two who begins offering illegal abortions to women in need, at a time when it was considered a crime against the state (a “moral” transgression, as the film explains). In addition to abortion, Chabrol further explores many facets of life in Nazi-occupied France, including the shameful practices of collaboration and capital punishment. Huppert is steely, even cruel at times, but as the sole breadwinner, she must be strong, providing for and supporting her family while her petty husband lingers, yet underneath her intensely guarded persona, she feels intensely: for the women who come into her home, for their pain and desperation, for her husband’s idling indifference (but not his fragile masculinity!), for her friends, for her children and, of course, for her own needs and desires. Throughout the film, Chabrol interrogates a man’s “right” to police a woman’s body (sound familiar…), and portrays men as weak, hypocritical and incompetent in financial, political, sexual, and domestic matters. Although Chabrol’s unobtrusive style can feel detached at times, there are moments of empathy and stillness that overwhelm the apathy, while Huppert’s multifaceted, Volpi Cup-winning performance is one of her most complex, determined, and fragile.
Amateur (Hal Hartley, 1994)
Courtney Small: The world that exists in Hal Hartley films is often one of offbeat characters, mismatched romances, deadpan humour, and philosophical questions about one’s purpose in life. It is the perfect playground for truly talented performers, like Huppert, to construct a memorable character and push the boundaries of expectation in the process. In Amateur, a stylized crime comedy-drama, she shines as Isabelle, a former nun who has left the convent after 15 years and now writes pornographic stories for an adult magazine. A self-proclaimed nymphomaniac, despite being a virgin, Isabelle befriends Thomas (Martin Donovan) who has amnesia after falling out of a window. Intrigued by the man, and growing feelings for him with each passing day, Isabelle believes that helping Thomas find the mysterious Sofia (Elina Löwensohn), who he mentioned in his sleep one night, is a calling from above. However, Sofia and his accountant Edward (Damian Young) both know Thomas’ true identity and the danger he poses to them. Masterfully capturing the sharp wit of Hartley’s screenplay, while managing to convey her character’s genuine affection and concern for both Thomas and Sofia, Huppert makes Isabelle a truly complex character. A woman looking to free the shackles of her own sexual repression, despite never feeling at home in the seedy world she is paid to write about, who is willing to see the best in the blank slate Thomas has become despite the horrors that his past self has caused. Thanks in part to Huppert’s work, Amateur offers a humorous exploration of second chances and redemption, even if they only occur for a few fleeting moments.
Home (Ursula Meier, 2008)
Huppert and Olivier Gourmet head a family of five who live in a small house beside an unfinished, abandoned highway. Their life proceeds in an orderly, small-town fashion until one day, without much warning, workers show up to complete the road, and suddenly it is a major artery with thousands of cars driving by their kitchen window day and night. The effect that this constant noise and imminent danger has is both a psychological intrusion and a physical one, eventually taking a toll on their ability to live their daily life as Huppert struggles to shut out the sound, her one daughter does her best to get away while her other daughter becomes a paranoid hypochondriac. Meier makes a message-laden, symbol-heavy film that never feels like a sermon; despite the fact that there are allegories abounding everywhere, the fine performances, especially from the lead couple, and the powerful visuals make it feel fresh and compelling throughout. Subscribers please note that this film is only screening on the Criterion Channel in the United States.
In Another Country (Hong Sang-Soo, 2012)
Huppert once said that working with Godard wasn’t so much acting as living in his world, and it’s possible that Hong’s oeuvre of brittle but poignant experiences provide the same atmosphere. A woman staying in a Korean resort town while awaiting the resolution of family business spends her free time writing three stories about three different women, a filmmaker, an adulteress and a divorcee, all played by Huppert, who visit the beautiful seaside locale. In each tale, the protagonist encounters an amorous film director and an adorable rascal of a lifeguard with varying outcomes. Anyone not already acclimated to Hong’s work will wonder why they spent time with something so light, but the beauty of his work, sort of a modern Eric Rohmer, is the way in which he captures the sexy erotic lightning that can come from spontaneous interactions. It’s also a rare opportunity to see the actress lighting up the screen without needing the usual trappings of grave intensity that have marked her most famous roles. Subscribers please note that this film is only screening on the Criterion Channel in the United States.
FOR FANS ONLY
Coup de Torchon (Bertrand Tavernier, 1981)
Barbara Goslawski: In keeping with Tavernier’s later concerns with social commentary, this film depicts the evils of colonialism in the form of a twisted satire, a disturbingly dark comedy adapted from Jim Thompson’s 1964 novel Pop. 1280 with its original setting, a town in America’s South in the early 1900s, changed to a Colonial outpost in French West Africa in 1938. Lucien Cordier is the town’s sole lawman, a hapless, lazy Police Chief who is pushed around one too many times. His wife is cheating on him, but he’s got his own share of lovers, one of whom is Rose (Huppert) who is also the battered wife of a neighbour. The film turns revenge story as Cordier starts to take matters into his own hands and even develops his own twisted logic to explain away his increasingly wicked actions. This perverse philosophy shifts the film’s black humour beyond the level of existential pranks into a murky world of cruel logic. Coup de torchon is not for everyone’s taste, its meandering structure taxes patience as it follows its protagonist’s seemingly impromptu actions. It also hasn’t aged well, it’s sexist and the English subtitles continually choose to use the n-word every time the characters refer to one of the Black inhabitants. It works better as an allegory, delivering a message about unchecked power and the dangers of absolute power. It could be a more powerful statement about Colonialism if it was less dependent on our bond with the impenetrable main character. The film’s secondary characters remain caricatures but ultimately, it’s a worthy watch for fans to see Huppert’s parody performance as a complete flake. One can practically see her ironic smile in her portrayal of weak femininity.
La truite (Joseph Losey, 1982)
Huppert’s early career coincided with the ends of many a legendary filmmaker, among them the great Losey here making his second-last feature. Initially conceived as a project for Brigitte Bardot in the sixties, it features her as an adventuress who calmly accepts her suicidal gay husband’s morose personality while enjoying the attention of a wealthy investor (Jean-Pierre Cassel) but befriends his wife (Jeanne Moreau) instead, then takes off to Japan with a cutthroat businessman (Daniel Olbrychski) and, while there, entertains all the attention that comes her way. Losey’s presentation of the character as hopelessly curious is free of moral judgment, a refreshing turn of events for a cinema usually obsessed with the doomed fate of a sexually undiscerning woman, and the protagonist having no fine point to her needs and desires works thanks to Huppert’s always enigmatic charisma. There are a lot of cool visuals, particularly now that its early eighties milieu has a funky retro vibe, but there’s no denying that this is one of the filmmaker’s strangest works and it won’t work for everyone.
The Bedroom Window (Curtis Hanson, 1987)
Huppert gets out of bed, looks out the window and witnesses Elizabeth McGovern being assaulted by a man who then runs away and murders another girl instead. She wants to tell the police what she saw except that she was in the bedroom of her lover Steve Guttenberg at the time, and he’s an employee of her husband’s. Plucky Guttenberg insists on going to the cops and saying that it was he who witnessed the attack, but his good intentions turn on him when the cops start getting suspicious of his shaky story and Huppert leaves him out to dry, so he teams up with McGovern to catch the killer instead. The twisty turns of the story are beyond preposterous, but Hanson has a marvellous time creating gorgeous visuals out of the noir-inspired settings (the best of them an Edgar Allan Poe-themed bar) and plays with conventions by having characters constantly change their archetypes, Guttenberg from stalwart hero to pursued criminal, Huppert from innocent bystander to femme fatale and McGovern from would-be barmaid victim to wisecracking sleuth. Watch Huppert’s visit to the Criterion Closet and enjoy the brief, touching tribute she pays the late Hanson in one of her selections.
Abuse of Weakness (Catherine Breillat, 2013)
Breillat taps into her own experience with the severe stroke that nearly ended her film career. Huppert stars as her alter ego, an uncompromising filmmaker whose life is mainly concerned with the pleasure of work before illness interrupts her flow. Trying to get back into the regular rhythm of things despite the setback of new physical limitations, she meets an ill-mannered, rough con man (Kool Shen) whose mercurial personality inspires her to want to cast him in a film, probably because he seems to be the only person who treats her as if she is still the healthy and capable person she was before her ordeal. It isn’t long before she is helping him financially, and soon after that is helping him so often that her fortune is dwindling to practically nothing, all in the name of appreciating someone whose attention is free of condescending pity. Huppert does a masterful job at re-enacting the hardest parts of her character’s journey as well as the quieter moments of reflection and doubt, but Breillat’s cold film rests on a conflict that only barely exists, the tension between the protagonists is never achieved, and other than understanding cerebrally what attracts her to him, the full extent of his appeal to her is never quite clear. Breillat adapted her own book detailing her real experience with the same situation, while the man upon whom the story is based was sentenced to sixteen months in prison in 2012. Subscribers please note that this film is only screening on the Criterion Channel in the United States.