Among the most accomplished and significant actors in contemporary French cinema (her 10 César nominations for Best Actress trailing only Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Deneuve), as well as one of the most recognisable stars of international arthouse cinema, Juliette Binoche (1964–) has, over her nearly four-decade career, become a feminine icon – romantic, tragic, glamorous, fearless, anguished. At the same time, she has sustained an extraordinary career across wildly varied genres and film styles, from the arthouse auteur cinema of Kieślowski, Haneke, Carax, Denis and Kiarostami, to crowd-pleasing prestige fare and international blockbusters.
Born to parents who were both actors, Binoche decided on a career in theatre by her mid-teens and burst onto cinema screens in 1985 with a string of significant roles, including her star-making performance in André Téchiné’s Rendez-vous. One of a wave of extraordinary young French actresses to emerge at this time, she lacked the feral unpredictability of Béatrice Dalle, the raw sex appeal of Emmanuelle Béart, the wounded defiance of Sandrine Bonnaire, but her subtle, interior and often-anguished persona came to the fore in her stunning, career-defining turn in Three Colours: Blue. The first of many movies to utilise the true power of the Binoche closeup, tears slowly welling in her eyes, Kieślowski’s film came to define her screen persona. In what Ginette Vincendeau would term the eroticisation of anguish, the archetypal Binoche character suffers, neither struggling to stifle her pain nor inflict it upon us, but feeling it keenly, authentically, nonetheless. This relative performative neutrality, the ability to sit with the emotion, has appealed to such important slow-cinema auteurs as Hou, Kiarostami and Dumont. In an era where the ethics of acting itself are increasingly called into question – what it means to “play” another person – Binoche expertly negotiates the contested ground between presentation and representation.
This season focuses on many of Binoche’s most significant performances following her collaboration with Kieślowski, taking in her fascinating return to working with Téchiné and her provocative and playful teaming with Claire Denis and Olivier Assayas.
– Melbourne Cinémathèque
Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.
Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven.