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Tag Archives: Isabelle Huppert

In the latest in our 10-part series, the films we are most looking forward to next year by the worlds most singular directors

Based on a True Story

Now 83, Roman Polanski remains firmly in the public eye, despite not having shot a film since 2013s ropy Venus in Fur. But Carnage, released a couple of years before that, suggested there was life and fire in the old genius yet, and this one has the great advantage of being scripted by Olivier Assayas. Another meta-fictional thriller in the mould of The Ghost Writer, this one stars Eva Green as a writer who becomes involved with an obsessive admirer.

Call Me By Your Name

Maybe the most intriguing among a strikingly tasty-looking bunch of Sundance titles, Luca Guadagninos latest may not feature Tilda Swinton, but it does look of a brilliant, shimmering kind with the likes of A Bigger Splash. Armie Hammer stars as an American academic who starts a summer love affair with an adolescent boy (Timothe Chalamet) while staying at his parents house on the Italian Riviera. Michael Stuhlbarg is the possibly spluttering papa.

The Death and Life of John F Donovan

Dont expect it to show up at Cannes no way, no how, not after what happened last time but still were reserving space for the latest by enfant terrible Xavier Dolan. Another English-language debut, this one stars Kit Harington as a rising US actor accused by gossip mag editor Jessica Chastain of being a paedophile. The supporting cast is as wow-y as that premise: Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, Michael Gambon.


Heres one that should make someone who, say, might be on maternity leave from March, feel really sore to miss: Alexander Paynes follow-up to the masterful Nebraska. And its his most ambitious to date: a sci-fi comedy drama starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig (subbing at the last minute for Reese Witherspoon) as a couple who voluntarily decide to be shrunk. But then she backs out at the last minute. Margo Martindale (star of Paynes fantastic Paris short), Jason Sudeikis, Alec Baldwin and Christoph Waltz co-star.

The Handmaiden


Heres the only one on this list any of us have seen already: Park Chan-wooks simmering adaptation of the Sarah Walters novel Fingersmith. It premiered at Cannes in May and was warmly received as one of the most erotic movies ever made.

Happy End

Michael Haneke and Isabelle Huppert reunite for his first film since Amour and hers since, well, the trio of brilliant hits she had this year. Details are sketchy, but we know it co-stars Amour lead Jean-Louis Trintignant as well as Mathieu Kassovitz, that it was shot in Paris, Calais and London, and that the migrant crisis might be a backdrop. Nous laimons dj.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Lobster might not have picked up the acclaim it deserved but Colin Farrell is still in with a shot at the Golden Globes and its certainly upped Yorgos Lanthimoss profile in the US. Hopefully that bodes well for a great launch for this Cincinnati-set drama about a surgeon (Farrell, again) who forms a familial bond with a teenage boy, with apparently disastrous results. Nicole Kidman plays his wife; Alicia Silverstone crops up too, amazingly.

Lean on Pete

Of all the projects to follow 45 Years, Lean on Pete wasnt quite what we anticipated from Andrew Haigh. But whatever that fella dishes out, well take it. Lean on Pete is a racehorse; he and a 15-year-old take the trip from Portland, Oregon, to distant relatives in Wyoming. Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny and Steve Zahn feature.

Mektoub Is Mektoub

The fallout from Abdellatif Kechiches 2013 Cannes win for Blue Is the Warmest Colour did not paint him in the rosiest light. This one is based on Antoine Bgaudeaus novel La blessure, la vraie, about a screenwriter whose personal and professional dealings intermingle during a visit to his hometown on the Mediterranean. Other than that, its a puzzle: the cast is a mystery, but were guessing well find our around late April, when the Cannes contenders are announced.


Its easy to see why Derek Cianfrance might want a change of direction. His last movie, The Light Between Oceans, was a bruising, heartfelt, 100-hankie weepie on which multiple critics poured scorn (leading to Cianfrances wife, no less, writing a letter of protest). The Blue Valentine director this time round is going down the quasi-documentary route with the story of a heavy metal drummer who blows his eardrums out and must learn to adapt to a world of silence.


As one of the few people who liked The Search, Michel Hazanaviciuss follow-up proper to The Artist (never released in England due to the brutal festival reception), Im a nervous for and excited about this biopic of Jean-Luc Godard, about his courting of the then 17-year-old wife Anne Wiazemsky. Louis Garrel plays the director, Stacy Martin the actor. Brnice Bejo is also in the mix; her relationship with husband Hazanavicius may also have informed their involvement in this one.

The Sisters Brothers

Joaquin Phoenix makes his first appearance on this list, this time in the first English-language film from Jacques Audiard. Based on Patrick DeWitts novel, its about sibling assassins (Phoenix and John C Reilly) pursing a gold prospector across 1,000 miles of 1850s Oregon desert. Audiard was the surprise winner of the Palme dOr at Cannes last year for Dheepan; this looks quite wildly different.


Wim Wenders latest sounds faintly bananas. James McAvoy plays an Englishman imprisoned by jihadists in a windowless room on the eastern coast of Africa. Alicia Vikander is a diver prepping to hit the ocean floor in Greenland. The previous Christmas, they had a romance which began on a French beach. How this one will play we have no idea, but Charlotte Rampling co-stars, which suggests swimmingly.


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Ancient texts have a cosmic way of speaking to people in our time: for instance, a New York woman who killed her two children, and my mother, who killed herself

Pascale, my daughters school director, first told me about Lisette Bamengas case one morning during pre-school drop-off in Brooklyn. Lisette was Pascales own daughters third-grade teacher at Public School 58, and she was facing lifetime imprisonment for killing her two children, who were four months and four years old, in July 2012.

Many parents of Lisettes students, Pascale among them, testified in her favor and helped raise money for her defense. Pascale told me about the trial, and the progress she and her fellow supporters made in getting Lisettes undiagnosed postpartum psychosis acknowledged in the sentencing process. Pascale insisted on telling me, I thought, until I realized I was one of the few able to listen, and definitely the only mom to take interest in the case as I regularly asked for updates. After a while I had to tell Pascale I could have been Lisettes child.

My mother took her own life in July 2009. She struggled since adolescence with what she called manic depression, and what I remembered the medical establishment describing as I asked around, desperate to understand as close to schizophrenia. She suffered from severe postpartum depression bordering on psychosis after my birth and, before me, my sisters. She almost killed herself many times before her final attempt: which wasnt an attempt or a call for help, it was irrevocable and deliberate. Unwillingly, very much involuntarily, she had nearly killed me and my sister more than once.

In Euripidess tragedy Medea, maddened by grief, the eponymous character murders her children in revenge for her husbands adultery. Ive worked at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the last seven years programming what we call here humanities, meaning events that provide context around our season, literary events and more unusual things. I had seen Medea at BAM before working here, and Fiona Shaw in Deborah Warners production reminded me so brutally of my mother, I couldnt even weep.

Jonathan Cake and Fiona Shaw in Medea. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

As Pascale was telling me about Lisette I kept wondering what I could do with this information. It felt as though she was telling me for a reason. I started thinking of Medea of which Lisettes story is almost a perfect replica and Phaedra too, who fatally falls in love with her stepson, destroying them both. This story is also about betrayal, and women in crisis easily blur in my mind as a sketch-like portrait of my mother.

Now Isabelle Huppert will perform in Phaedra(s) in the upcoming Next Wave festival, in Krzysztof Warlikowskis adaptation which conflates Seneca, Coetzee, Racine and Sarah Kane. For those like me who were lucky enough to see Huppert in Psychose 4:48, Claude Rgys adaptation of Kane, in the Harvey, her return in a role bearing traces of her past character on that same stage promises to deliver a palimpsest of ineffable beauty and cathartic vigor.

Lisettes story also made me think of Bryan Doerries, whose work I had the chance to present at BAM in different contexts. Bryan has created visionary programs for populations in crisis, including combat veterans, through his Theater of War project, which gave its title to his powerfully intimate memoir. Bryan directs dramatic readings of ancient plays for communities of trauma as a catalyst for healing dialogue, using theater and a variety of other media to address pressing public health and social issues.

Meanwhile Bryan and I had become friends, and he told me in confidence Bryan is also a translator of ancient Greek that he was developing a production of Medea, in which he hoped the actress Elizabeth Marvel would agree to star. There you go, I thought to myself: heres what you have to do. I asked Bryan if he would be interested in creating a program like Theater of War, specifically tailored around Lisettes story with parts of Medea and Phaedra read by, ideally, Marvel. Bryan said yes immediately, Marvel agreed, and BAM had a date open on the programming calendar.

Krzysztof Warlikowskis Phedre(s): a study in betrayal. Photograph: Pascal Victor/ArtComArt

The event, along the lines of Bryans ingeniously structured process, will feature readings of Euripidess Medea and Senecas Phaedra, and be followed by a panel of respondents, who serve as a sort of chorus to present their views on what they heard, and relate it to their own lives, to todays world. Theres something transcendent Bryan might say cosmic about the way texts written thousands of years ago still speak so directly to events in our time. Bryan uses the word cosmic a lot because the cosmos sometimes seems to be sending him signs when hes on the right track. Our preparations for this program were so seamless they did seem helped somehow by forces invisible to us.

We asked Pascale to be among the respondents on the panel, to be a chorus member so to speak, and talk about Lisette, if she would, and her involvement in her story. She said she was glad to do it. Actually she almost cried; I saw her eyes well up. She apologized, said she had been feeling emotional, that she was still reeling from the trial where she witnessed Justice Martin Marcus deliver what she described as the most moving speech shed ever heard, and sentence Lisette to eight years in prison instead of a possible life sentence, or 20 years as the prosecution demanded. The judge talked a lot about the schoolchildren and their parents involvement, and how much their testimonies influenced his decision.

We sent out invitations to our event, and I asked Pascale specifically to invite fellow parents, and Lisettes advocates. She sent an invitation to Lisettes mother, who was touched and gladly accepted. She said the event would also celebrate Lisettes birthday: 20 June.

In their displays of cruelty and passionate excesses, the Greek gods remind mortals of their limits, they caution against transgression, against madness, against the ex- what is out of, what is beyond. Mortals must stay within, they warn, within laws that govern humanity. Lisette trespassed and yet her kin didnt cast her out. Instead they tried to understand.

  • Medea & Phaedra: Tragedies of Passion, Betrayal and Revenge takes place at BAM, New York, on 20 June. Tickets are free: details here

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