Educated at Lycée de Saint-Cloud, Ecole national des langues orientales vivantes.
Huppert began as a teenager: Faustine et le Bel Eté (71, Nina Companeez); César et Rosalie (72, Claude Sautet); Le Bar de la Fourche (72, Alain Lèvent); L’Ampélopède (73, Rachel Weinberg); Glissements Progressifs du Plaisir (74, Alain Robbe-Grillet); Making It (74, Bertrand Blier); Dupont Lajoie (74, Yves Boisset); Sérieux Comme le Plaisir (74, Robert Benayoun); Rosebud (74, Otto Preminger); Le Grand Délire (74, Dennis Berry); Aloise (74, Liliane de Kermadec); Docteur Françoise Gailland (75, Jean-Louis Bertucelli); Le Iuge et L’Assassin (75, Bertrand Tavernier); Je Suis Pierre Rivière (75, Christine Lipinska); Le Petit Marcel (75, Jacques Fansten); The Lace- maker (76, Claude Goretta), the film that won attention outside France; Des Enfants Gâtés (77, Tavernier); Les Indiens Sont Encore Loin (77, Patricia Moraz); to great acclaim as the young murderess, fascinating just because of her intent passivity, in Violette Nozièrc (78, Chabrol); Retour à la Bien-Aimée (78, Jean-François Adam); as Aune in The Brouté Sisters (78, André Téchiné); excellent, sensual, and commonplace in Heaven's Gate (80, Michael Cimino), even if she seemed to sniff out a small, intimate picture about how frontier life was lived, instead of a fulminating epic; Sauve Qui Peut (80, Jean-Luc Godard), her placidity enduring or encouraging Godard's frenzy of lecture; excellent in Loulou (80, Maurice Pialat); La Dame aux Camélias (80, Mauro Bolognini)—she does have a consumptive glow; Orokseg (80, Marta Meszaros); Les Ailes de la Colombe (81, Benoit Jacquot); Coup de Torchon (81, Tavernier); Eaux Profondes (81, Michel Deville); Passion (82, Godard); The Trout (82, Joseph Losey); Entre Nous (83, Diane Kurys); Storia di Fiera (83, Marco Ferreri); Mij Best Friend's Girl (83, Blier); Signé, Charlotte (84, Caroline Huppert, her sister); La Garce (84, Christine Pascal, her costar from Enfants Gâtés— Huppert has worked frequently with women directors); Sac de Noeuds (85, Josianne Balasko); losing her sight in Cactus (84, Paul Cox); doing Dostoyevsky in Les Possédés (87, Andrzej Wajda) and Bette Davis in The Bedroom Window (87, Curtis Hanson); Milan Noir (87, Ronald Chammah); La Vengeance dune Femme (89, Jacques Doillon); Molina (90, Werner Schroeter); Après l'Amour (92, Kurys); and L’Inondation (93, Igor Minaev), from a novella by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which the actress had optioned personally.
She has remained a leading actress, versatile and ready for daring or unusual material, well paired with Sandrine Bonnaire in La Cérémonie (95, Chabrol); Lumière et Compagnie (95, Abbas Kiarostami); the voice of a horse in Gullivers Travels (96, Charles Sturridge); the interviewer in Poussières dAmour (96, Schroeter); Elective Affinities (96, the Taviani Brothers); Marie Curie in Les Palmes de M. Schütz (97, Claude Pinoteau); Rien ne Va Plus (97, Chabrol); Pas de Scandale (99, Jacquot); La Vie Moderne (99, Laurence Ferreira Barbosa); La Fausse Suivante (00, Jacquot); Mme de Maintenon in Saint-Cyr (00, Patricia Mazuy); Les Destinées Sentimentales (00, Olivier Asssayas); Comédie de l’Innocence (00, Raul Ruiz); Merci pour le Chocolat (00, Chabrol); Clara Schumann in Clara (00, I lelma Sanders-Brahms); startlingly erotic in La Pianiste (01, Michael Haneke); 8 Femmes (02, François Ozon); La Vie Promesse (02, Olivier Dahan); Deux (02, Schroeter).
The greatest surprise and failure in Huppert's career came when she was not very good as Emma in Claude Chabrol's lifeless Madame Bovanj (91). lu Chabrol’s conception, she seemed doomed, and contemplating poison, from the outset. There was none of the laughter, the flights of gaiety, romance, and casual earthiness of which Isabelle Huppert is capable. Ironically, she had come closer to the range and tumult of Emma Bovary a few years earlier, for Chabrol, in the very moving Une Affaire de Femmes (87).
She has been industrious and versatile for over thirty years, unusually comfortable in English for a French actress, and intriguing to a great variety of directors (though she never worked for Truffaut). Indeed, she has to rate as one of the most accomplished actresses in the world today, even it she seems short of the passion or agony of her contemporary, Isabelle Adjani. An Adjani Bovary would not have been as controlled—and viewers would not have left the theatre underexercised.