The high priestess of cerebral cool, Isabelle Huppert, re-teams with her Copacabana director Marc Fitoussi for another walk on the light side. Second time round proves not to be the charm.
Can I start by saying how much I adore Isabelle Huppert. Most fans of French cinema would know her as an actor who puts herself through the wringer to give us tortured souls in heavy dramas. In his 2010 film, Copacabana, Fitoussi gave us the rare pleasure of seeing Huppert’s less utilised, but considerable, comedic talents. The two have reunited, but while Folies Bergere maintains the lightness of touch of his previous film, there are less laughs and less engagement with the lead character.
Brigitte (Huppert) is a bull breeder, and though life on the farm with husband Xavier is harmonious, it’s made clear to us from the outset that she is younger at heart, less conservative and less judgemental. She’s not the least put out when her younger neighbours have a loud party late at night, and even less so when handsome party guest Stan wanders over to her place and shows an interest in her.
Intrigued by Stan’s subtle flirtation, Brigitte finds reason to visit Paris for a couple of days to surreptitiously bump into him. What ensues is neither particularly romantic nor comedic, with Fitoussi seemingly disinterested in the obvious genre tropes and instead gives us a gentle study in middle-aged ennui.
Huppert’s magnetic presence goes a long way to making this watchable, I’d pay to watch her eat a croissant, and frankly, she’s not called upon to do much more than that here.
The rapport between her and screen husband Jean-Pierre Darrousin has a lived-in ease about it, and Pio Marmai is suitably smooth as her young suitor. Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist is sadly as charisma-free as he’s always been, and consequently his introduction as an additional amorous option makes the third act the weakest.
Not much is required of the audience, except an acceptance of widespread infidelity among the characters (a prerequisite perhaps for French films).
This is minor fare – easy to take and easy to forget.
Folies Bergere releases nationally on December 11 through Palace, with weekend advance screenings starting November 28.