Fall Guide: Juliette Binoche Talks Paris and Dancing

Juliette Binoche must have signed a deal with the devil, since there's no other logical explanation for why this Oscar-winning French actress gets lovelier every year. Within the tapestry of overlapping stories that invigorates Cédric Klapisch's ensemble drama Paris, Binoche is radiant as a single mother who moves in with her brother (Romain Duris), a terminally ill dancer now re-examining his life and habitat. I phoned Binoche in the South of France to discuss the city of her birth.

Under all of its storylines, Paris is about the city itself. Do Parisians believe they're living in the center of the universe, as many New Yorkers do?

I'm a traveler. I work with a lot of different [international] directors, so I've never felt that Paris was the center of anything. The only center you have is your heart and yourself. [Laughs.] When I read the script, what I liked was the brother and sister. The brother is down at the beginning of the story, and almost losing him makes her taste life differently. He's becoming more conscious of the little things, observing people. This back-and-forth is very touching.

Good news for Abel Ferrara: Binoche, seen in Paris
David Koskas
Good news for Abel Ferrara: Binoche, seen in Paris

Details

Between Paris and Summer Hours, this has been your year for sibling drama. Do you ever channel the real-life dynamics between you and your family?

And I did Dan in Real Life just before, which was about family as well. You use everything you have or don't have. Your imagination is actually helping you to gather all the possibilities, but I use my whole soul, body, and mind. For me, it depends on the intensity of the film and my relationship with the director—whether there's a real connection there. Then you can really go further. So it's not a channel. You use your life as well as your imagination—which is huge, if you dare go there.

This month, you're bringing In-I, a dance performance you choreographed with Akram Khan, to BAM's Next Wave Festival, starting September 15. Why did you wait until your forties to make your professional dancing debut?

I didn't wait! I'm not the kind of woman who waits a lot. [Laughs.] I take life as it is, and it just happened that my masseuse, Su-Man, asked me, "Do you want to dance?" I was lying on the table having a massage, and I said, "Yes." Then I met with Akram, and they proposed, "Do you want to do three days of trying something together?" But I never think of time, because when you're inside of your life, you don't think of time. It's a learning process with my body, and it's challenging, but I love it because it allows me to enter different worlds, spaces, and fears. I don't want to go to the same place. Otherwise, I'm bored.

BAM is also hosting a retrospective of your screen career through September 30. Do any of your films stand out to you as neglected or undervalued?

Of course. Nevertheless, it's part of your life, and it's always weird when you have to choose. It's like having 30 children, and you say, "Which one do you love most?" That's why I let them choose for me, because I'm not objective and it would be very difficult. I particularly love Abel Ferrara's Mary. He did an extremely beautiful film, and I don't think it was really noticed in America. Rendez-vous was my first film as an actress. It's rough, but I found it passed the [test of] time. And I'd say Code Unknown, but some cinephiles love this film. My films are very specific, you know? Sometimes, they became successful by accident because my first choice was not to do a mainstream movie—it just happened like this. I'm thinking of The English Patient and Chocolat.

Besides acting and dancing, I know you also paint and raise kids. Is there time for anything else?

None of your business, darling.

"Paris" opens September 18 in limited release (IFC Films), ifcfilms.com/films/paris

FALL FILM PICKS

47th New York Film Festival
September 25–October 11

The chicly renovated Alice Tully Hall reopens its doors to our city's premier film fête, kicked off by French master Alain Resnais's sweetly subversive comedy Wild Grass. No one can argue that this year's program is too "safe," as it includes work from branded provocateurs Bruno Dumont, Todd Solondz, Catherine Breillat, Harmony Korine, and Michael Haneke—whose latest, The White Ribbon, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The Film Society of Lincoln Center, West 65th Street and Broadway, filmlinc.com

'Araya'
October 7–20

Milestone Films follows up its vital restorations of Killer of Sheep, I Am Cuba, and The Exiles with Venezuelan-born filmmaker Margot Benacerraf's all-but-forgotten 1959 tone poem, which shared the International Critics' Prize at Cannes with Hiroshima, mon amour. Technically a documentary, this unique work of detached voyeurism spends 24 hours in the sandy toils of the salineros (salt harvesters) on a barren Caribbean peninsula. Many of its breathtaking images wouldn't feel out of place in an Antonioni or early Agnès Varda film. IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, ifccenter.com

Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years
October 8–17

Five years before the crafty hipster auteur began his adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are (perhaps the iPod generation's most anticipated film of the season), he had already befriended author Maurice Sendak. In addition to Jonze's first two features, MOMA's mischievously named retrospective includes his candidly funny film portraits of Sendak, plus music videos, commercials, and shorts—such as We Were Once a Fairytale, a hallucinatory new collaboration with Kanye West. MOMA, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org

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