Isabelle Huppert (Paris, 1953) takes off her feet in the royal suite of the Majestic Hotel and her gaze hidden behind expensive sunglasses is lost on the rooftops of Barcelona while dispatching journalists. All the desire to talk that Johnny Depp had at the BCN Film Fest is what the French film diva lacks, who makes no effort to please her interlocutor. The role of culture during the pandemic? “I don’t know, that’s a very broad concept,” ditch.
Luckily the actress is promoting a comedy, ‘Mamá María’, which discovers its humorous register and which hits theaters this Friday, April 23. Jean-Paul Salomé’s film turns the protagonist of ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Elle’ into an Arabic translator for the Parisian police, a widow with two daughters and her mother in a residence, who finds the solution to her financial problems by moonlighting as a drug dealer after seizing a cache of drugs. Dressed as a Muslim and armed with disposable mobiles, ‘Mama Maria’ will seed the suburbs of Paris with marijuana and will handle the camels and some gendarmes who do not know they have the enemy at home at will.
-What do you have in common with your character?
-Patience. I really liked her name, Patience Portefeux (Patience Firewall), it’s funny.
-Did you learn Arabic for the role?
-Just the sentences I say, I had to work a little. It has been interesting.
– Doesn’t he seem like an amoral character, like the rest of the characters in the film?
-Undoubtedly. It is amoral, not immoral. By that I mean that he is not friendly at all. I think it has its own morals. The rest of the characters, especially the women, are a bit amoral. They are the ones that move the story forward. Mothers seek to defend their children.
-And you are as impulsive as she?
-Not. The interesting thing about Patience is that she doesn’t think, she does everything very quickly, without thinking. And that seems like a lot of fun to me. He doesn’t stop to reflect on whether what he’s doing is dangerous or okay. In life we are not so impulsive. I don’t have the same opportunities in my life or in my career as Mama Maria. Maybe if he had them he would do something similar.
– It was his turn to do a comedy.
-Well, I do a lot of comedies in France, but maybe those films don’t make it to Spain. I’m glad that ‘Mama María’ is premiering here because normally my films that go abroad are more dramatic and darker. Comedy is a product that is not exported well because it tends to be quite identitarian, it does not cross borders well. ‘Mama Maria’ is not just a comedy, it can become something quite universal and extraterritorial.
– Do you have an opinion on the legalization of drugs?
-I have no opinion about it. It’s complicated. There are countries in which some drugs are legalized and things are going very well.
-In ‘Mama Maria’ we do not see a Paris on a postcard, but rather that of the neighborhoods where emigration lives.
-The director wanted to show the reality of these mestizo neighborhoods, the coexistence that occurs between people of different nationalities. This gives Paris a much more cosmopolitan and therefore more fair aspect.
-How are you dealing with the pandemic?
– I have not lived it so badly, I have been very lucky. I have not stopped working, it has been a great privilege. The world of live entertainment has been much more affected than cinema. Filming has not been interrupted, while theaters are still closed in Paris. I hope to resume in May a work that I interrupted during the first confinement. In addition, I hope to represent Chekhov’s ‘The cherry garden’ at the next Avignon Festival by Tiago Rodrigues.
-In the movie he appears singing a rap. Do you listen to that kind of music?
-I listen to all kinds of music and I really like rap. I’m not doing it all the time either, I’m not obsessed with music.
-It has two cinemas in Paris.
-Yes, they are still closed like the rest of the rooms, it is a complicated situation. The cinema is called Christine and Ecoles. But they will reopen soon. I know that in Spain cinemas are open with restrictions. I guess it depends on scientific considerations and pandemic numbers. You are very lucky.
-In Spain we envy the good health of French cinema.
The neighbor’s lawn always looks greener than ours. We are very lucky even if we complain. Perhaps we are the artisans of our own luck. We have a pretty solid cinema. For some time now we have also had good news from Spanish cinema, with very good directors like Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Alberto Rodríguez, there has been a renewal. I would love to work with them and others I don’t know. I make films in many countries but I have never worked in Spain. I really want to.
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