Juliette Binoche on Working Naked With Jean-Luc Godard, Growing Old, Going For the New

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“You have to know how to reject roles so as not to enter into a system in which women are only seen in a certain way,” said French actor Juliette Binoche on Sunday.

Binoche spoke up for women whilst answering questions from the press at the San Sebastián Film Festival where she is a recipient this year of the festival’s Donostia Award, as a tribute to her career.

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“The English Patient” star is a go-to actress for a slew of auteur directors, including Krzysztof Kieślowski and Claire Denis.

Denis joined her on stage to discuss “Both Sides of the Blade,” a love triangle film co-starring Binoche, which will screen at the festival before the award’s presentation.

“Both Sides of the Blade” also stars Vincent Lindon and Grégoire Colin.

“You have to go instead to the new. And you have to jump into the unknown and work outside of macho codes,” continued Binoche.

Talking about her experience working in the U.S., Binoche, who spoke in French, added: “In American cinema it has sometimes happened to me that they call me to be ‘the wife of’ and then say ‘no’ because I’m not interested,” said Binoche who arrived in a casual suit looking natural in little make-up.

“Growing old in front of the camera is a challenge, it forces you to be truthful,” she said.

As well as working with Denis three times, Binoche has worked with numerous great directors, including the late Jean-Luc Godard who she said was not easy.

She worked with Godard on the 1985 film “Hail Mary.”

“There was a series of casting I did with him that lasted for a long time,” she recalled. “For rehearsals, I had to be naked whilst combing my hair, and saying a poem by heart. He didn’t choose me for the role but he created a new role for me.”

Binoche got into acting through theatre, and trained at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Paris.

Her film debut came in 1973 with “Liberty Belle,” which was followed by numerous roles, including the Godard film.

Her early English-language credits include “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (Philip Kaufman, 1988), and “Wuthering Heights” (Peter Kosminsky, 1992).

For Kieslowski she acted in “Three Colours: Blue” in 1994. For the film, she received her first César Award and the acting award at the Venice Festival.

She’s no stranger to San Sebastián.

With director Jean-Paul Rappeneau, she closed San Sebastian Festival’s Official Selection with “The Horseman on the Roof”  in 1995.

She returned to San Sebastián in 2018 to present two films: “Vision, a Mystic Tale,” tale by Naomi Kawase, and “High Life” with Denis.

“I don’t have an overall vision of cinema,” she said. “I look for stories that also help me confront something in myself.”

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