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Isabelle Huppert, in a Morocco Moment

The French legend—and jury president at the Marrakech International Film Festival—on what she looks for in film, whether she’s on screen or not

“A film is nothing but the reflection of the soul of its creator,” Isabelle Huppert said during the opening night festivities of the 14th annual Marrakech International Film Festival this week. And considering her role as the president of the festival’s jury—which includes, among others, Mèlanie Laurent, Alan Rickman, Bertrand Bonello and Cristian Mungiu—Huppert should know.

The actress, who has appeared in scores of films and twice won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, and her jury will choose which films walk away from the weeklong festival with honors and a chance to be seen by a global audience. Despite her responsibility, Huppert took time for a conversation about filmmaking, how she prefers to watch movies and the role that has managed to elude her. Here are excerpts.

Here in Marrakech, it’s your job to watch films. What are your normal film viewing habits like?

I’m a good spectator in the sense that I’m open.

Are you a cinemagoer? A Netflix addict? 

I like to watch movies [in a theater], it’s still the best way for me. Of course sometimes you can’t do that and you watch DVDs, but it’s not as good. That’s the privilege of being on a jury; you can watch movies every day in the best of conditions.

And from what I’ve seen, people seem to always clap for you when you arrive. 

Well, that might not always be the best. 

Speaking of DVDs, Netflix recently arrived in France. How do you feel about that?

I’m optimistic by nature. When DVDs arrived, we all thought it would change everything, but cinema is a strong medium and it resists. Hopefully, it won’t change. A film is not a film if it doesn’t go into a theater. We still have to make movies and take them into a theater and share that experience of watching movies in a movie house, otherwise you can’t call it a film. We’ll always need that passage through the movie theater.

As someone who’s been in more movie theaters, at least on screen, than almost anyone, what kind of roles are you looking for?

I try to keep a certain variety as much as I can. It doesn’t bother me if I do five very dark roles in a row. The viewer tends to establish borders between comedy and drama, but I don’t do that. I can find drama in comedy and comedy in drama. I would love to be in one of those big movies, playing a real villain. 

Are there any directors you would want to work with?

Oh, a lot! David Cronenberg. I love his films. 

He’s very different than the directors you’ve worked with before. 

Well, every director is. I think he’s very talented and gives great opportunities for actors. You can deliver very daring performances with him. 

Do the directors you’ve made films with have anything in common?

Talent, of course. They’re all very different. That’s what I like about it. Maybe what they have in common is the ability to let the actors create their own landscape within the film. That is the mark of how smart a director is, the way he’ll let you just be what you are and make your connection with a character and film.

You’ve been working in the U.S. quite a bit recently. Was that purposeful?

It was pure coincidence. It was nice; I spent almost four months in the U.S., doing The Maids [at Lincoln Center] in August, and then shooting Valley of Love in Death Valley and then filming Louder than Bombs in New York. I was doing a French play—in an Australian production—in New York and then a French movie in California and then a Norwegian film in New York.