Cannes Report: Day 5

Michael Haneke, Amour, 2012, color film in 35 mm, 127 minutes. Production still. Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva).

THE TWO COMPETITION films that have screened so far on this uncharacteristically gloomy day have featured festival luminary Isabelle Huppert in unexpected places: in a supporting part and in South Korea. In Amour, her third collaboration with Michael Haneke, another Cannes perennial, Huppert plays Eva, the daughter of octogenarian parents, both retired music professors and still very much in love—a bond that’s tested as Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) tries to care for Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) as she becomes increasingly debilitated. Huppert’s brief appearance in Amour is a rarity for the performer, who’s usually the fulcrum in all of her projects; that’s certainly the case in her first film with Haneke, The Piano Teacher (2001), for which she won the Best Actress award at Cannes. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the Huppert-led jury presented the Palme d’Or to the Austrian director for The White Ribbon in 2009.)

At the press conference for Amour, a surprisingly tender movie from a filmmaker usually associated with sadism, Huppert seemed content to defer to Trintignant and Riva, two titans of French cinema, even while contradicting them. Entering in a black leather jacket (surely donned to ward off the rainy chill during her earlier photo call), Huppert sat on the far right of the panel. She smiled slightly as Trintignant genially—but quite convincingly—said of Haneke, who was seated to his immediate left, “I’ve never met such a demanding director. [Working with him] is a very difficult task.” Queried later, Huppert demurred: “Well, I don’t think it’s all that difficult. [. . .] I like to watch myself in Michael Haneke’s films.” But in response to a Chilean reporter’s question whether all actors in Haneke’s films suffer, her response was swift and unequivocal: “No, it’s the spectators who suffer.”

Huppert may find pleasure in watching herself on-screen, but the townspeople of Mohang, South Korea, seem really knocked out by her beauty in Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country, the prolific director’s thirteenth film in sixteen years—and his first to be made with a non-Korean lead. Many of Hong’s signature touches are found in his latest—intricate narrative tissue links one droll episode to the next, surrogates stand in for the director himself, copious bottles of soju are consumed—yet In Another Country forgoes much of the mortification that defines his earlier works, focusing instead on the playfulness of the stories’ architecture. Huppert plays three different women named Anne, all of whom stay at the same tiny beachside hotel and meet the same lifeguard character. “I’m on my way to the unknown path,” the third Anne—a flighty recent divorcée—says in a text message to a friend who had introduced her to a revered monk. Huppert, playing the lead in triplicate, follows suit.