Paris

A moment with… Isabelle Huppert

The brilliant French actress reveals her favourite hot spots in the French capital


BY ROOKSANA HOSSENALLY
London-born, Paris-based Rooksana writes about travel and culture for The New York Times, Wallpaper, Condé Nast Traveller, Elle India and The Guardian.

Golden Globe-winner and Oscar-nominee, Isabelle Huppert is one of the most distinguished actors in French cinema history, with more than 100 films to her name.

Born in Paris, Huppert has spent most of her life there, and the City of Light still holds all the charm and magic that’s kept her there throughout the years. The French actor – and Mandarin Oriental Fan – shares her all-time favourite Paris locations with Rooksana Hossenally, from her favourite museums to the best independent cinemas for arthouse films.

Isabelle, what’s your relationship to Paris?

Even if I spend a lot of time abroad for my work, I’ve always lived in Paris. Walking around the city is one of my favourite pastimes. Paris is a city where you always discover something new; a building you didn’t know, boutiques... It’s a city you really savour by strolling through it, sometimes without great purpose – but that is also what makes up the city’s poetic charm, that charm of the purposeless.

Paul Verhoeven’s psychological thriller Elle – for which you received an Oscar-nomination and a Golden Globe – was set in Paris. Where there any particular locations that stood out for you?

Elle’s feel was very urban and was filmed in Paris and its suburbs; it was precisely this break away from the image of Paris that was key. When you shoot in areas such as the Latin Quarter or the Champs Elysées, you become a foreigner in your own city, a tourist. These places suddenly belong to the world of film, places that belong to everyone. When you stumble upon areas you don’t know, such as Pantin on the outskirts of the city, you see that Paris’ centre is slowly moving outwards.

Where do you go in Paris to be alone?

I like going to museums. They’re anonymous and soothing. I love Beaubourg [also known as the Centre Pompidou] and the Museum of Modern Art. And the Louvre, too. It’s magical. At the Beaubourg, I love the temporary and permanent exhibitions – it’s a bottomless well for art.

What sets Paris apart from other cities?

To me, old classic French films make up part of Paris’s unique depth, which exists nowhere else. My son and I own two old independent cinemas in Paris, the Christine 21 and Ecoles 21. These two cinemas have always shown arthouse films and now my son runs them – and I help by being a loyal member of the audience! There’s a real appetite for these films: people come to experience them in their original formats. I’ve been quite a lot recently, as there were several Japanese films showing that I like. Beyond films, for me cities are defined by their museums and theatre. I love the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe and the Bouffes du Nord.

Where else do you like to go in Paris?

The parks – even if they tend to be quite dusty and aren’t quite the ‘lungs’ of the city, which you find in London or New York – remain pleasant. When we shot Things to Come we spent a day at the Buttes-Chaumont Park and I liked that a lot. It’s a huge green space. The Montsouris Park is great, too.

And what your favourite Parisian hotel?

I like Mandarin Oriental, Paris – especially for Thierry Marx’s restaurant, Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx; for his very elaborate molecular cuisine – you just want to taste everything. The hotel is also in an unusual setting, right in the thick of the action, in the heart of the fashion district. It has a calm and soothing feel to it. I also like that it’s one of the most recent luxury hotels in the city, so it has a more modern type of architecture.

Your latest film Eva premiered at The Berlin Film Festival this year. What’s next for you?

I’m shooting Anne Fontaine’s film Blanche Comme Neige [As White as Snow], based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’m playing the step-mother. It’ll be out in a year, and we’re shooting in Paris, but also in the suburbs, and the Vercors (southeastern France).

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