Isabelle Huppert, one of the greatest actresses of her generation, will be the next recipient of the European Film Academy's European Achievement in World Cinema. She's only the third woman to be so honored in this category's 13-year history. (For the record: the other two were Victoria Abril and Liv Ullmann.)
The fifty-six-year-old Huppert began her career in the early 1970s, appearing in supporting roles in films such as Claude Sautet's Cesar and Rosalie (1972) and Bertrand Blier's Going Places (1974). By the end of the decade, she was playing leads in Claude Chabrol's Violette Nozière (1978) and Jean-François Adam's Retour à la bien-aimée (1979), and since then, Huppert has been the star of more than 50 productions, both in France and elsewhere.
Among her most notable roles are those in Mauro Bolognini's Lady of the Camellias (1981), in which she's flawless as the French courtesan of the title; Bertrand Tavernier's Academy Award-nominated Coup de torchon (1981), in typical form as a – ahem – sexually creative character; and Diane Kurys' Coup de foudre / Entre Nous (1984), a beautiful drama in which Huppert plays a former World War II Jewish refugee who, though married and a mother, falls in love with another woman (Miou Miou).
Also, the abortionist in Chabrol's disturbing Story of Women (1988, above); Emma Bovary in Chabrol's version of Madame Bovary (1991); a scheming postmaster in Chabrol's anti-bourgeois La cérémonie (1995); a pianist who's into some really kinky sex in Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher (2001); and a prudish, bespectacled, schoolmarmish type in François Ozon's offbeat musical 8 Women (2002).
And more: Christophe Honoré's My Mother (2004, above), teaching her son (Louis Garrel) a thing or two about the arts and sciences of sex; Alexandra Leclère's dramatic comedy Me and My Sister (2004), in which Huppert plays the neurotic Parisian sibling of small-town bumpkin Catherine Frot; and Chabrol's Comedy of Power (2006), as a tough investigative magistrate.
In addition to the aforementioned directors, Huppert also worked for the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Cimino, Patrice Chéreau, Olivier Assayas, Marco Ferreri, Joseph Losey, Maurice Pialat, Vittorio and Paolo Taviani, Andrzej Wajda, Michel Deville, and Claude Goretta.
Her list of co-stars include Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Fanny Ardant, Béatrice Dalle, Benoît Magimel, Annie Girardot, Charles Berling, Emmanuelle Béart, Daniel Auteuil, François Cluzet, Stéphane Audran, Jean Carmet, Isabelle Adjani, Marie-France Pisier, Pascal Greggory, Kris Kristofferson, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Jeanne Moreau, and Philippe Noiret.
Isabelle Huppert, Jean Dabin in Violette Nozière (top); Huppert in The Piano Teacher (bottom)
Throughout her 38-year film career, Huppert won two best actress awards at Cannes (for Violette Nozière and The Piano Teacher), a British Academy Award for most promising actress (for The Lacemaker in 1977), a best actress César from the French Film Academy (for La cérémonie), a best foreign actress David di Donatello from the Italian Film Academy (for The Lacemaker) in addition to a special David for the bulk of her career in 2003, an European Film Award for The Piano Teacher and another she shared with the cast of 8 Women.
The fact that Huppert has never even been nominated for an Academy Award says a lot about the Academy's actors' branch insularity when it comes to non-English-language performances – and absolutely nothing about Isabelle Huppert's talent as an actress or the quality of her roles.