March 1 – March 15


“For an actress there is no greater gift than having a camera in front of you.”
– Isabelle Huppert

Isabelle Huppert (1953-) is one of the most highly respected, prolific and fearless actresses working in cinema today. Her illustrious 45-year career profiles a formidable body of work across film, television and the stage that has taken her around the world to collaborate on challenging productions in France, the United States, South Korea, Australia, and many other countries.

Recognised for her dedication to acting on screen as well as on the awards circuit even prior to winning the BAFTA for Best Newcomer for her subtle and devastating performance in Claude Goretta’s The Lacemaker, Huppert’s talent, tenacity and highly technical skill has led to her working with some of the world’s best and most adventurous directors. Winner of Best Actress awards at Cannes, the Césars and the Venice Film Festival, she has shown herself to be a master of complexity and controlled nuance who understands the common gravity of the intense roles she plays while also being capable of a perverse and sometimes surprising sense of humour. Endowing her performances with an astonishing range of passion, pleasure, anger, violence, discontent and psychological nuance, Huppert’s mercurial screen work is an incredible gift to the cinema.

This season celebrates Huppert’s greatest work in French cinema with a range of notable directors including Claire Denis, Maurice Pialat, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Michael Haneke.

March 1

7:00pm – LOULOU
Maurice Pialat (1980) 101 mins M

This work of fearless, self-exculpating semi-autobiography is one of Pialat’s most painful and revealing films. Taking, at its base, his failing relationship with regular screenwriter Arlette Langmann (here credited as co-writer), Pialat constructs a bruisingly specific, yet freewheeling anatomy of co-dependent romantic immaturity through ferociously committed star performances by Huppert and Gérard Depardieu.

Tortured and tender, this is a key work of “wild realism” from one of the luminaries of the “Second New Wave,” a group that also includes Jean Eustache, Philippe Garrel and Jacques Doillon.


Claire Denis (2009) 106 mins MA

Denis’ intense and disturbing collaboration with the fearless Huppert is a brooding and sobering survey of tension, dissolution and violent revolution in an unidentified region of postcolonial West Africa. Ostensibly centred on the futile efforts of Maria (Huppert), an obstinate plantation owner, to avoid displacement, the film’s expansive focus deftly illustrates the struggle of a startling panorama of figures including wayward rebel fighters, groups of workers and servants, Maria’s own disintegrating family, and a troupe of orphaned child soldiers, ensnared in the inchoate and uncertain climate of an escalating land conflict.

With Michel Subor, Isaach De Bankolé and Christopher Lambert.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ Annotation:
White Material by Marcin Wisniewski.


March 8

Claude Goretta (1977) 107 mins M

Ostensibly a love story, but also a character study focusing on behaviour and the sexual politics of a relationship, Goretta’s “beautifully observed tragedy” (Danny Peary) features Huppert in her breakthrough role as Pomme, a young, fragile, uneducated working-class girl who lives an unassuming life before being swept off her feet by a bourgeois student who tries to “improve” her… with devastating consequences. The film, with its title taken from the Vermeer painting, urges us not to overlook the unremarkable, anonymous members of society while providing a piercing study of class and cultural difference.


Claude Chabrol (1988) 108 mins M

Chabrol’s chilly historical drama is based on the true story of Marie-Louise Giraud, one of the last women to be guillotined in France. Huppert plays a contradictory and ambiguous figure who rejects traditional family values and performs illegal abortions in occupied France during World War II. Coolly presenting the facts in a detached and pragmatic way, Chabrol neither condones nor condemns Giraud’s actions but is deeply critical of corrupt Vichy France and the patriarchal hypocrisy that ignores the bleak social conditions that force her hand.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.

‘Story of Women’ by Darragh O’Donoghue.


March 15

Jean-Luc Godard (1980) 87 mins Unclassified 18+

Hailed as his “second first film” after a series of collaborative video works for European TV with partner Anne-Marie Miéville, Godard’s “return” to “narrative” filmmaking fuses their recent experimentations in slow-motion video “decomposition” with the larger budgets and big-name stars (Huppert, Nathalie Baye) of Godard’s celebrated ’60s period. The result is a key transitional work that finds Godard’s essayistic interventions contrapuntally set against narrative, creating “precisely calibrated pileups of spoken and printed texts and of sync sound, voice-over, music, and effects” (Amy Taubin).


Michael Haneke (2001) 131 mins R

Haneke offers another of his unflinching depictions of the violence beneath the surface of comfortable bourgeois life in this adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek’s 1983 novel, focusing on the titular masochist (Huppert) and her obsession with an initially resistant teenage student (Benoît Magimel). Huppert rightly won acting awards across Europe for her full-blooded depiction of ruthless perversity. Haneke, as usual, creates a dynamic contrast between his cold, dispassionate, unblinking cinematic style and the raw intensity of emotion he encourages from his performers.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film & Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ Annotation:
Between Action and Repression: The Piano Teacher by Nina Hutchinson.

The Avoidance of Love: ‘The Piano Teacher’ as Anti-Melodrama by Alison Taylor.