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.
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
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
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
Still seen as a controversial figure for ratting out alleged Commies in the era of Hollywood blacklisting, the director of On the Waterfront and East of Eden was, nevertheless, one of our most venerated icons. Sixteen key works will be screened, including rarities like Man on a Tightrope and America, America. On October 23, a new 35mm ‘Scope print of Kazan’s long-unavailable 1960 Wild River—a complex and atmospheric Depression-era drama starring Montgomery Clift—earns its own week-long run. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
Chilean director Sebastián Silva’s terrific, two-time Sundance Prize winner—about a lonely, embittered live-in maid (a truly riveting Catalina Saavedra) who feels threatened when the family she has served for two decades hires extra help—is so nail-bitingly claustrophobic that it sometimes feels like a thriller. Not so much about upstairs-downstairs class struggles, this bleakly comic character study tracks our sourpussed antihero as she sabotages her competition, shuns compassion, and sidesteps both our sunniest and gloomiest expectations. Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street, angelikafilmcenter.com
It might sound hyperbolic to call Danish bad boy Lars von Trier’s psychodrama the most talked-about film of the year, except that this maddening, exhilarating, retina-tattooing aberration has all the ingredients: talking foxes, hardcore penetration, and the most explicit images of disfigurement this side of torture porn. Grieving over the negligent death of their child, psychiatrist Willem Dafoe and his wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg, retreat to the woods to repair their marriage and deeply disturbed psyches. Yeah, good luck with that. IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue, ifccenter.com
October 28–November 8
In a recession this ugly, filmmakers could learn plenty from the low-budget ingenuity of this prolific producer who helped launch the careers of Coppola, Scorsese, and Cameron. One week alone will be dedicated to Corman’s finest work as a director: his seven Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. (Don’t miss the Grand Guignol goofiness of The Raven.) Among the rarely screened treasures are the biker-gang curio The Wild Angels and The Intruder, starring William Shatner as a racist agitator. Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, anthologyfilmarchives.org
‘The House of the Devil’
Nobody needs another retro horror parody, so it’s refreshing that Ti West’s ’80s-set, satanic thriller—which artfully evokes Rosemary’s Baby, early Brian De Palma, and the Euro-sleaze of yore—sustains a stone-faced sincerity and avoids cheap scares. (It’s creepy as hell!) College sophomore Jocelin Donahue accepts an odd babysitting gig at a secluded Victorian mansion on the night of a lunar eclipse, and, before you know it, the slow-burning suspense ratchets up to a gonzo, bloody finale. That title’s no joke. Magnolia Pictures, in limited release, magnetreleasing.com
While I’m Not There screenwriter Oren Moverman’s directorial debut sounds emotionally manipulative on paper—after a tour in Iraq, U.S. Army officer Ben Foster is partnered with loose-cannon military lifer Woody Harrelson to bear bad news for the Casualty Notification service—it’s a surprisingly restrained, authentically moving portrait of friendship and grief that never stoops to easy melodramatic clichés. It’s not action-packed like The Hurt Locker, but just as outstanding, and both Foster and Harrelson should officially be put on the Oscar watch list. Oscilloscope Laboratories, in limited release, oscilloscope.net
New Czech Films
BAM’s annual showcase brings out Helena Trestikova for a Q&A about her award-winning doc René, in which she spent 20 years following an eccentric, tattoo-covered prisoner who published two books and once burgled the filmmaker’s home. Milos Forman returns with A Walk Worthwhile, his second filmed performance of the jazzy stage musical since 1966. Also of note are Maria Procházková’s lush, child’s-view charmer Who’s Afraid of the Wolf? and Jan Hrebejk’s richly whimsical I’m All Good. Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org
‘A Town Called Panic’
Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox won’t be the only stop-motion animated film boasting savvy and style over the holidays. Belgian first-timers Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar expand their manically inventive series of comedy shorts to feature-length, following the buoyantly offbeat antics of Plasticine heroes Cowboy, Indian, and Horse on the occasion of the Horse’s birthday. As defiantly lo-fi as South Park, the animation style has a herky-jerky vibrancy befitting of the filmmakers’ demented wit. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, filmforum.org
December 21–January 2
The beloved French auteur and actor was the trickiest and most sophisticated slapstick artist in cinema history, which doesn’t say enough about how astutely his ambitious comic mysteries observed the absurdities of modern living. MOMA’s exhibition includes newly struck 35mm prints of Tati’s six dazzling features (if you see only one, make it his 1967 masterpiece Playtime), plus rare shorts like Cours du soir—a filmed comedy lesson in which he teaches the proper way to fall “up” a flight of stairs. MOMA, 11 West 53rd Street, moma.org