– Michael Rozek’s directorial debut is a confused homage to Isabelle Huppert’s acting prowess, which falls somewhere between absurd theatre and a clumsy parody of arthouse cinema

Review: Marianne

Isabelle Huppert in Marianne

In Michael Rozek’s Marianne, presented out of competition in the 41st Torino Film Festival, Isabelle Huppert occupies the screen for an hour and a half, sitting on a couch or facing a mirror, reciting an English script written specifically for her by the director and delivering a long, drawn-out, irritating and ever so slightly pretentious monologue. It’s an exercise in style confining one of the most versatile actresses working in world cinema today to an immobile and manneristic performance, which, in the words of the director, will help the audience to watch “Isabelle’s face and listen attentively to everything she has to say”. It’s a claim which speaks volumes about the content of Huppert’s monologue, which is worth listening to, according to Michael Rozek, even if only for this technical approach which forces the viewer to listen to an hour and a half of empty words and idle philosophising on the meaning of life and film, on the works of Tarkovsky and Bergman, and on a hypothetical film where Huppert is supposed to play a character called Marianne Lewandowski who’s grappling with her sister and niece’s problems.

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The director also states that the film ‘looks to capture the moment we’re experiencing with precision’, a vacuous formula which hints at a lack of ideas during the writing of this film, which goes on far longer than it should, assuming that a film like this should ever come to light in the first place. Because we do find ourselves wondering what the point of Rozek’s endeavour is: a film for Isabella Huppert fans? A swipe at narrative cinema? An example of solipsism further cluttering the already ample array of useless films about the history of cinema? And why write a monologue in English for Isabelle Huppert, an actress who’s arguably the epitome of French irreverence and nonchalance, overlaying it with awkward subtitles? It’s questions like these which crowd viewers’ minds but which ultimately go unanswered.

Of course, it’s all well and good for Isabelle Huppert to revisit the extensive range of registers she has used for the characters she’s played in previous films, which have been increasingly imbued with a certain degree of cynicism or endowed with distinct inner strength. But more than a study of acting, Marianne ultimately feels far more akin to a deliberate study of boredom and of waiting for something to happen, so much so that, at a certain point, Huppert literally has to shout “Wake Up!” at the audience, clearly aware of just how sleep-inducing her monologue actually is, in a game of meta-language which pervades the entire film and is punctuated by the actress insistently looking into the camera, between awkward pauses which seem to show how frustrated the actress is (just like us!) by the sensation of boredom. Over time, this lengthy explanation of cinema, life and the fine line between reality and fiction becomes increasingly pedantic, feeling like a slow death from which we desperately want to escape. Michael Rozek is right about one thing, however: whatever we feel and in spite of it all, this too is an example of film. Although the Lumière brothers can rest easy.

Marianne is produced by Ciné@ and Dark Dreams Entertainment, with world sales entrusted to Hyde Park International.

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(Translated from Italian)





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