I love Juliette Binoche. In fact, I adore Juliette Binoche.
There I’ve said it -this statement is bequeathed to the world. The only thing that remains to be said is why I love Juliette Binoche.
It’s her acting that I’ve always found attractive. Binoche has always had the ability to capture the screen and the audience and hold them locked. There is always a pleasure in watching the films she makes -the pure power of her screen presence as she moves through the different colours of human emotion. Always with that intensity which now has faded and has been replaced by a more open style of acting.
She is one of the finest French actresses of her generation. Maybe one of the finest film actresses cinema has produced over the past 25 years. She has always been a box office draw making her a dominant force, and there is no reason to assume that she will end in the years to come.
With a best supporting Oscar for the English Patient (Anthony Minghella, 1996), and now winning this years best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, why should anything stop her?
The film for which Binoche won the best actress award at Cannes, Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010), is an ambiguous film. In fact, it is probably the most ambiguous film that you’re likely to see this year. It is a reminder of those films that Eric Rohmer spent most of his life making.
Certified Copy is a film of dialogue, a philosophical film, a film in its essence that is quite simplistic. James Miller (William Shimell) and Elle (Juliette Binoche) converse with each other, discussing the meaning of life, marriage, men, women, sex, and art, as they stroll through a small Italian town.
Yet beyond this simplicity there is a depth contained within the language of their conversation, and within the body language exchanged between the characters that unfold the meaning of the film.
Each is trying to make a connection with each other, but there is a history between them that is never expressed in the film but keeps getting in the way. It is what is left unexpressed which leads to the ambiguity. The audience is left with a sense that something is missing.
Because of this Certified Copy is a film that cries out to be read, and the ambiguity to be released. And this will only happen with successive watching, only then will this ambiguous film take on a meaning which exists beyond its apparent simplicity. This is philosophical film making at its best.
Throughout Certified Copy the actors are never off screen.
William Shimell would not be out of place next to David Niven, Jeremy Irons, Nigel Havers. His relaxed, clipped, English air, gives his character a subdued presence on the screen. He is the type of actor that will more than likely turn up in an adaptation of a novel by E M Forster or Evelyn Waugh.
Conversely, Juliette Binoche, is the opposite of this. She is relaxed, emotional, maybe, a little melancholic. Life has left its imprint on the character of Elle and upon Binoche’s acting style. Her acting now gives more to the audience. She is open and gregarious rather then being locked in and pensive as we find her in her early films such as Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf (Leos Carax, 1991), Damage (Louis Malle, 1992), or Three Colours: Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993).
It’s hard in her extensive back catalogue to pinpoint where the change came about. Yet this far more open style of hers has certainly been visible over the past four or five years in films such as: Flight Of The Red Balloon (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2007), Paris (Cedric Klapisch, 2008), and Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2008). In these the intensity of her early films has gone -it would seem that she now wants to externalise her performance rather then internalise it. In Certified Copy she is all the better for it.
Whichever style of acting Binoche adopts, if she is intense on the screen then she is intense. If she open in style and gregarious then she is open and gregarious. It still makes her a joy to watch. She brings to the screen a presence that is so lacking within a lot of cinema today, a presence that can only be equated with substance. This can only mean that others who wish go into acting can only learn from her performance on the screen. Or the audenice can just sit back in the cinema and watch her films -while at the same time falling in love with her.
Juliette Binoche I adore you.
(image: William Shimell and Juliette Binoche in Certified Copy)