At Cannes yesterday evening, Isabelle Huppert played co-host for the festival’s 70th anniversary celebration, and sang “Happy Birthday” to…Cannes. The moment was captured by a few people on social media, and while it’s brief, it also feels like something of a portrait of Huppert at her Huppert-iest. I of course do not know personally Huppert at her Huppert-iest or least Huppert-y, so this statement is very much a matter of Internet writing hyperbole — but watch this thing! It’s amusing!
I shall now try to substantiate the hyperbole. The idea of singing “Happy Birthday” to a film festival is already something of a high-conceptual twist on the annoying ditty typically sung to humans over a flaming cake — and thus something that seems fitting with the nature of Huppert’s provocative, convention defying career. The timbre of her voice, meanwhile, is at once guttural, almost even grave, and operatic, relishing the dry Frenchness of its pronunciations of the famous lyrics, and pausing before naming “Cannes” as if to instill it with just a bit of deadpan absurdist humor. As with any Huppert performance, so much can be gleaned within seconds! It could be totally meaningless, but her multilayered contralto instills it with much to ponder! Ah, the many existential questions the celebratory personification of a film festival opens up!
Check out bit of it:
As Vulture reports, her hosting was full of wonders, including a jab at the controversial presence of Netflix at the festival as she honored Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation — “American directors, please start casting Gene Hackman again, even if it’s only on Netflix!” — and a casual skewering film industry sexism as seen through the lens of Cannes — “70 years of Cannes, 76 Palmes d’Or, only one of which has gone to a woman … No comment.”
Huppert’s own latest project — the Michael Haneke-directed Happy End — screened at Cannes a few days ago, to such strong responses that it elicited alliteration from the Guardian, who, in a five-star review, called it “a satanic soap opera of pure sociopathy.”