As I look back at my own film honors over the decades, both on paper, and in my fond film memories, French Juliette Binoche pops up a lot. And for all the right reasons. Alluring, pensive, the face of an angel encapsulating the full spectrum of emotions. Sexy for sure, firing off pheromones from all cylinders. Something Binoche has certainly maintained as she’s magnificently aged with the grace and poise of a true movie icon.
And those acting chops, as lucid and natural as those distinctive cheekbones. Can bring tears to her eye in a heartbeat, yet can smother you with her wicked glare. Binoche, at times, appears to rattle herself with the fascinating acting ability. Inhabits her characters so deeply, you might not be even watching a film. Instead, experiencing a life of temperament, of intensity, of what it must surely be like to touch another human soul.
I fell in love with Juliette in the early 1990s. Jumping in at the deep of French cinema, having allowed the New Wave to engulf me in awe. But the final decade of the 21st century was a shape-shifting, prosperous one for the film revolution of France. And Binoche was a distinct part of that. When I first saw Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (Lovers on the Bridge), the eye-patched Binoche intoxicated me. It’s a painful, liberating performance. Work most definitely requiring further back-patting with co-star Denis Lavant and director Leos Carax.
Before I could digest this remarkable actress, I saw two extremely different turns in the English-language Damage (1992) by Louie Malle, and then the first of the Three Colours trilogy, Blue. Be still my beating heart. One of the greatest performances ever by the way, by any woman or man, French or otherwise. And Krzysztof Kieślowski – just wow – another love affair began.
As a certified fanboy, I would attempt to dig up her earlier work. Pretty tricky given the time. mean, we’re probably talking checking the video shop or library for a VHS copy. Her seductive, likely breakthrough, performance in Rendez-vous would come later. As would Alice Et Martin, also directed by André Téchiné. In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed 1988’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being – but simply not enough Juliette.
By the time the American Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) recognized Binoche, she was already a household name in world cinema. Swept up with the gushing tide that would see The English Patient lap up 9 of its 11 Oscar nominations, Binoche amazed the film folk by winning Best Supporting Actress. As I have said before, this was no surprise. It’s a devastatingly emotive, powerful performance – the heart of the film.
The Oscar buzz caught hold of Chocolat, too, in 2000, much to the dismay of awards season followers. Binoche landed a Best Actress nomination, and although not completely fair to say she didn’t deserve it, there is a backlog of finer performances in her filmography. Publicity in the industry was rife, and tainted, and the delectable French actress deserved to be in the public eye for the varied excellence of her work.
Binoche was irresistible to prospering directors, two of her most commanding turns came in the films of Michael Haneke – Code Unknown in 2000, and then Caché in 2005. Two grounded, exceptional performances in films by Olivier Assayas. As a grieving daughter in Summer Hours (2008), and then coming to terms with aging in Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). An unquestionably popular winner at the Cannes Film Festival for Best Actress, the year she appeared on the poster no less. The role, a kind of adult lets pretend, brimming with several strands of altering emotions in Certified Copy, the sharply written and directed film from Iranian filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami.
In 2016, back in Cannes, with Slack Bay, a far more eccentric, comic role, for which she is compellingly able. As well as favorable recent roles in Camille Claudel 1915, and her first collaboration with Claire Denis in 2017’s Let the Sunshine In, Juliette Binoche is still packing the punches – leaving a wondrous trail of acting prowess behind her. One of my very favorite actresses, of any era. But I think you knew that already.
Here are no fewer than 16 Juliette Binoche film experiences available to stream right now, not to be missed: