“This place is so inspiring,” says legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert with a gasp. “Such a beautiful theater.”
Huppert has arrived in Miami for a tribute during Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival, and she’s rather impressed by the Olympia Theater. The venue seems to live up to the hype noted in the festival’s event page ahead of the tribute: “With its opulent Old World elegance, the famed Olympia Theater is the perfect host for a celebration as iconic as the guest of honor herself.”
Huppert admits that she has been bestowed career tribute awards so many times that she can’t remember her first one anymore. “I don’t know, I don’t remember,” she laughs at the request to recall. “They will give you a tribute award at 6. I’m kidding,” she adds slyly.
Despite her joking, she recognizes what an honor it is to be allowed to reflect on the work she has done with directors and be acknowledged for it. “It’s always nice,” she adds. “It doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the journey. I always take it as halfway through the journey. I think it’s nice, especially here.”
Huppert had two new films at the March festival, Souvenir, which the festival played at The Olympia and Claire’s Camera, which showed at a much smaller theater. This week, the latter sees release on home video, finally. In the movie, directed by Korean writer-director Hong Sang-soo, Huppert plays the titular Claire, who is visiting Cannes for the first time. She is there accompanying a friend who has a movie playing at the Cannes Film Festival. More importantly, she has a penchant for documenting everything with her Polaroid camera. As she meets a trio of Korean characters in the industry on separate occasions, she unwittingly reveals a love triangle between the three.
This marks the second time Huppert has worked with Hong. She first did so with In Another Country (2012). She says not only are his films very different from any filmmaker you could try to compare him to, but his style of shooting is very distinct. “He makes — at least the two films I did with him — movies in very few days. The first one, In Another Country, which I shot in Korea, we shot in nine days. This one was shot in six days, during the Cannes Film Festival, just before I was going to present the film Elle, the film with Paul Verhoeven.”
She also notes that within that short period of time, there’s never much time for rest. While actors are used to waiting around on movie sets, she says Hong keeps the actors busy while simultaneously working on the script. However, she notes, this is not improvisation. “I love the way Hong Sang-soo makes movies … I like him because he’s really a master of contrasts because there is not script, but its very much written. It’s very short, but he takes his time, so it’s always the contrary of what you expect it’s going to be, because when you say there is no script, you think, it’s going to be improvised. It’s not at all improvised. Day by day, he would give you the scenes. The scenes are very much written and very well written, so you don’t want to change the words, and of course we shoot in six days, but within these six days he takes his time, a lot of takes, and it’s a very slow pace in a very short amount of time, which is quite amazing.”
Huppert also says Hong brings a different kind of acting out of her. She struggles to put her finger on it, calling it a je ne sais quoi in English. “I don’t know why, but in Hong Sang-soo’s movies I feel like I act in a certain way, with a certain I don’t know … like I was always surprised by what I’m saying … because it’s always like a confrontation between me and a different world, because I’m with all these Korean people, discovering each other.”
She says Claire’s Camera is particularly about people learning about each other. The camera Claire carries helps to facilitate this in a fashion that is reflective on the revealing power of the movie camera, she explains. “Claire always says we have to look at people,” notes Huppert. “I think it’s an homage to filmmaking, to movie making. In order to understand people you have to watch people, you have to look at people, so it’s exactly what movie making is about, in a way.”
Asked about her future projects, she reflected on another pair of directors she has enjoyed working with. As she noted, while she shot Claire’s Camera at Cannes, she was there to represent Elle, a strong film by Verhoeven (With Elle, Verhoeven skillfully turns judgement against audience and leaves room for love). The Dutch filmmaker is currently at work on a new movie called Benedetta. Though Huppert isn’t in that one, she says she is open to working with him again. “I do hope that in the near future we will be working together again,” she comments. “I loved working with him.”
There’s another director she is looking forward to returning to set with, but this one, she is eager to report, is indeed putting something together with Huppert in mind. After White Material (My top movies of 2010), she says she will once again shoot a movie for Claire Denis. “Maybe in Korea,” Huppert says. Asked if the script is already written, Huppert reveals, “No, not even, so hopefully she will write fast.”
Claire’s Camera is out on home video on Tuesday, Nov. 6. If you purchase it via this link, you’ll be helping to support indieethos.com.