Ten great Juliette Binoche performances
– by Regan Payne
I’m not certain why, but Juliette Binoche has managed her career almost flawlessly (yes, I saw Dan in Real Life, so don’t bother bringing that up). Some actors have an exceptionally discerning radar for content, others lust after working with only top tier directing talent, while others just get by on their prodigious talent. Binoche seems to have all three categories covered, and then some.
Her latest venture, Certified Copy, playing in limited release, pairs her with Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, whose endlessly searching camera couples well with Binoche’s confident gaze.
Kiarostami plucks British opera star William Shimell away from the footlights to star as a writer on tour with his latest book that questions whether artistic copies, or fakes, do not in themselves have some intrinsic value; something to say, all there own, as it were. He has a chance meeting with a French art dealer (Binoche), and the two set off on the premise of trying to find the answer.
When the couple is mistaken, casually it would seem, for being married, the two play along gleefully, deepening their connection, but also providing an interesting subtext to the plot. We now begin to wonder if they were strangers after all. Could they be an estranged married couple trying to recapture the love they once knew? In essence, are they themselves an original, or a fake?
Binoche often shines where dialogue is secondary to emotion, either repressed grimly, or expressed with extreme prejudice: making her a worthy collaborator for Kiarostami, whose films often see their protagonist searching for something lost, a new beginning, or an understanding of where they belong.
Whether in precise, eloquent masterworks, or shambling tatters of film spliced together haphazardly, ten great Juliette Binoche performances:
10. Flight of the Red Balloon (2007) – Working with another master of cinematic silences, Binoche teams with Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien in his remake of the titular 1956 French short.
9. Summer Hours (2008) – Binoche is the middle child of a family tossed into disarray at the death of their matriarch, whose will forces her children to face memories from their past. Olivier Assayas’ underrated gem features a great Binoche performance.
8. Alice et Martin (1998) – Not one of Andre Techine’s best films, Binoche nevertheless shines as a woman who falls for a young man with a trunk full of problems.
7. Rendez-vous (1985) – Sex and art are not easily bridged in film; many have tried and come away having frustrated moviegoers to no end. In her first role for Techine, Binoche plays an actress trying to balance her lovers amidst her career.
6. The Widow of St. Pierre (2000) – Proving she’s as comfortable in period pieces as well as the modernity she is better known for, Binoche dives into the role of a woman helping a convicted murderer turn his life around.
5. Hidden (Cache) (2005) – Easily one of the better films of the last decade, Binoche teams with German filmmaker Michael Haneke for this tale of a family tormented by a series of surveillance tapes left on their front door.
4. Bad Blood (1986) – Filmmaker Leos Carax probably should be better known than he is. But what began as a truly remarkable entrance onto the world film stage quickly fell apart with expensive critical and commercial flops. However, this is Carax at his most raw. Only in France: a mildly futuristic flick about aging thugs stealing a serum to kill lovers.
3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) – The first occasion North American filmgoers really took notice of Binoche, who stars with Daniel Day-Lewis in Philip Kaufman‘s adaptation of the Milan Kundera novel.
2. Code Unknown (2000) – Binoche’s first venture with Haneke, Code Unknown explores Paris’s rich, stubborn, and often cruel cultural diversity from all angles.
1. Three Colors: Blue (1993) – One has to be fairly gutsy to turn down Steven Spielberg, and his offer to appear in the Jurassic Park franchise, to instead spend your on-set time breathing in the endless second-hand smoke of legendary Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. Yet hat is exactly what Binoche did to play Julie, a woman who has recently lost her husband and child in an auto accident she herself survives, in the first of the Three Colors trilogy.