Reclining on the sofa, in an impeccable gray suit and salmon polo shirt, Isabelle Huppert (Paris, 68 years old) welcomes the journalist with a monumental view of Barcelona behind the interlocutor’s back. The actress, who seems to have signed a pact with the devil on aging years ago, is visiting the BCN Film Fest, the Barcelona Sant Jordi film festival, where she presents the comedy Mama Maria, which opens in commercial theaters in Spain next Friday. The pandemic has not slowed down its work rhythm, except, obviously, during confinement. “A few weeks ago I heard an African philosopher on the radio and he said that every day we think more about our end. The truth is, at the beginning I did not feel concerned. Until I thought that it reaches all of us. In my case, I am a privileged person, I had worked long before the pandemic, even for platforms, but I have lived this process like everyone else. I feel like the world is still in awe of what has happened to us, ”he reflects.
On Mama Maria, Huppert plays a police interpreter who translates wiretaps from drug traffickers from Arabic into French. “She is a completely invisible woman, who lives in disguise to meet the expectations of those around her,” says the actress. Until in a conversation he discovers that a huge shipment of narcotics has been abandoned and he takes it. Their economic hardships are over. In order to sell it, he will create a character, Mamá María, who will soon lead a new drug sales network thanks to her mastery of Arabic and her wisdom in haggling over court wiretaps: she communicates with her dealers in online video game chats.
“It’s a woman’s journey and that interested me a lot about the script. I insisted in my meetings with the director that we not stray from that narrative. I really like the poorly defined ending, in which we know that you will decide your next destinations with absolute freedom. The base of each character has to be firm; if not, the work ceases to interest me, because you become a puppet. Not much has happened to me, I have chosen well, with caution, and I have never come across a bad director ”. First tip for young actors. And another gift: “Before each shoot I talk a lot with the wardrobe department, because it is essential in the construction of each character. I do not know an interpreter who does not do it ”.
The actress assures that there is no Huppert method of work. “Every script requires a process. I choose by instinct. Be careful, it is an almost existential decision. And sometimes that choice is easy and sometimes not. What if I say no many times? Nor so many, and I admit that when I have rejected a script that later has become a great movie, I have given it a lot of thought. Yes, regret assails me. I am often more insecure of what I reject than what I accept ”. And, involved in the day-to-day shooting, she faces a mission: “As an actress I defend the script, a story. I go beyond my character. Point. Actually, I defend making good movies. You take something from each project, because cinema is microlearning ”.
Huppert’s intention is to return, pandemic permitting, to the theater this summer. “I don’t think there are differences between theater and film work because I am the same person and the same actress, although the physical space is different; I don’t believe in a sacrosanct vision of the stage ”, he begins his explanation. “I am now rehearsing again The glass zoo, by Tennessee Williams, with which he had started before the first confinement in France, with the hope that it can be released in mid-May. And, at the same time, I will restart another essay that I faced a long time ago, that of The cherry garden by Chéjov, directed by Tiago Rodrigues, head of the D. Maria II National Theater in Lisbon, which will be one of the great shows in July at the Avignon festival. I’ll be busy”. You always have been, haven’t you considered slowing down? “People work, I work. And in between, I do what, I suppose, everyone does ”.
Allergic to direct
Still, there is one part of his job that doesn’t appeal to him: management. “I feel very satisfied”, and she underlines it with a categorical gesture, “with my situation as an actress. I have created my own worlds and have been very fortunate to find great projects. If someday I direct I will probably do it more as a curiosity than because I have something special to tell. Actually, I never will. They tell me the same about writing a book. So that? There are already people who do it better ”.
Among its future releases is The shadow of Caravaggio, in which he plays Costanza Sforza Colonna, Marchioness of Caravaggio, protector of a young painter, Michelangelo Merisi, son of the administrator of the nobleman’s house. From her he would take the nickname with which he became famous … and that these days is repeated in the pages of Spanish newspapers. “Yes, I have read about the appearance of a supposed caravaggio in the press of my country ”, he smiles. “I enjoyed shooting the movie, I haven’t seen it yet. He is a fascinating artist, who raised painting to another level. And he had a life … He may have been a criminal, obviously, but he had a very interesting political side, in which you discover resonances with today. At the time, he was a revolutionary, almost like a current rock star, a punk ”.