Monday, December 30, 2013

Two Films Starring Isabelle Huppert

In 2012, French actor Isabelle Huppert acted in two Asian films – Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s ‘In Another Country’ and Filipino director Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Captive’. Both the films are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese. While the Korean film is a (or three melancholic) love story, in the Filipino film is a hostage drama inspired by the real events. I am not sure what went wrong, but I think both films defined expectations. Sang-soo’s film, set on the seaside resort of Mohang was rather quaint, while Mendoza’s film was not as violent as we expect from the director. There was a rather studied balance to tell the stories of both the sides — the hostage victims and the fanatic terrorists.

Also, perhaps the presence of Isabelle Huppert herself, among the Asian actors proved to be an anomaly in the plan. In ‘In Another country’ she is the only foreign character, a French woman (or three) who speaks English among the Koreans. To be fair, in ‘Captive’, there are other white, European characters, but the focus is more on Huppert.

‘In Another Country’, ‘Huppert plays three characters, all called Ann, all French, all unhappy (Huppert is a master in playing unhappy), all figment of imagination of a poor Korean girl trying her hands at writing a screenplay. It’s always a pleasure to watch Huppert on screen, but after a point the film becomes a cycle of repetition. In all the three stories, as imagined by the girl, Ann arrives at the lodge maintained by the girl, flirts with a Korean man with a pregnant wife (in the second story, Ann’s Korean husband makes an appearance) and have a brief but sweet romance with a lifeguard who may be less than intelligent. These encounters are the highpoint of the film, which offer a bittersweet taste. It is indeed life-affirming when a handsome stranger breaks into a song looking at you.

In contrast to the calm and inner turmoil of the Korean film, ‘Captive’ is a more quelling experience. It’s all over the place. There are gunshots. There are long tracks though the forests infested with mosquitoes and bees, led by gun-wielding terrorists, in a foreign country.

Huppert plays Thérèse Bourgoine, a French missionary in Philippines. She is taken hostage along with her older companion, a woman, and host of other people, both local and foreigners. The terrorists are demanding a separate state for themselves, and the film tries very hard to paint them as real human beings. For example, when one of the terrorists fancy one of the hostages, he insists that he marries her before they can consummate their passion.

The hostages spend months together with the terrorists since they will be released only when the ransom is paid. Since no one will be paying ransom for Bourgoine, she stays there for the longest time. It must have been very difficult film to shoot, given that the hostages and their captors are always on the move, and this taking toll on their physical and mental wellbeing. Yet, unlike the Korean film, the focus is not on Huppert alone, but on everyone.

In Another Country is a 2012 South Korean comedy-drama film written and directed by Hong Sang-soo. Set in a seaside town, the film consists of three parts that tell the story of three different women, all named Anne and all played by French actress Isabelle Huppert. The film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The film was selected as part of the 2013 Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Captive is a 2012 French-Filipino drama film directed by Brillante Mendoza and starring Isabelle Huppert. The film was screened in competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in February 2012. The plot focuses on describing the torturous life of the hostages, whose survivors were freed only after a year in captivity.

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