Juliette Binoche jetted into Macao today (December 9) to take part in a masterclass in which she discussed her career working with many of the international biz’s greatest directors.
The French actress is a talent ambassador for the 2019 International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM) and participated in a two-part discussion, initially with festival director Mike Goodridge, and then in a back and forth with Chinese director Diao Yinan, whose The Wild Goose Lake is playing here.
Binoche recalled how revered French director Jean-Luc Godard gave her one of her initial breaks in the industry when he cast her in his 1985 drama Hail Mary.
“We stayed in a hotel for three to four months, he [Godard] would shoot whenever he wanted to,” said Binoche. “Sometime we would go on set, and he would say ‘no’. It was informative, sometimes making a scene has to come from a deep place – it’s not just a machine for him, he had to capture reality.”
The actresses’ first leading role was in André Téchiné’s Rendez-vous, in which she played a young actress who arrives in Paris and ignites the passion of several men as she tries to get a career break.
“There were rough scenes [with] nudity, sexual scenes, it was tough,” she remembered. “But I could take it because, as a young actress, it’s hard to start a career, you’re the only one to believe in it. You have to create a part inside you of trust, faith.”
The project somewhat mirrored her real-life situation as a young performer trying to break into the biz, and Binoche credits the director with looking after her.
“I was never in that situation [being taken advantage of] because I was able to say ‘no’. There were difficult scenes in Rendez-vous, but Téchiné was protective,” she said.
One of Binoche’s most lauded roles remains Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 1993 pic Three Colors: Blue. The film was one of the Polish director’s first ventures outside of his home country, and Binoche recalled how different he was to work with than his French counterparts.
Rather than the typical approach of shooting multiple takes for each scene, which allowed the actress to try out different methods of delivering her performance, Kieslowski would rehearse and then shoot only once. “He was trained to do that because film was expensive,” she said.
Binoche also recalled her work with Leos Carax in his 1991 film The Lovers On The Bridge. It was a tough role for the actress, with the director asking her to live homeless for a period of time to prepare for the part.
“He asked me to have a real experience, so I did it,” she said. “I was in situations that were a little dangerous, but I was ok, that was my commitment to the film.”
In one of her latest roles, Binoche leads Hirokazu Koreeda’s drama The Truth, which opened Venice this year and screens in Macao. The pic is the revered Japanese director’s first film shot outside of Japan, and the actress said she had been looking to work with him for a “long time” after the two first met in Cannes 12 years ago.
“We spent some time in Kyoto together, I said ‘I’d love to work with you’,” she remembered.
Binoche said Koreeda found the more personal approach of shooting in France an interesting departure: “In Japan the director has his team and is very protected on set. In France everyone wants to have a special relationship with him, he was surprised by that.”
In the film, Binoche plays the daughter of Catherine Deneuve, and the pair had a complicated relationship on set. Binoche said she tried to make friends with Deneuve, but found her tricky, recounting an anecdote in which she asked for a cigarette from the older actress, who threw the packet at her – she added that the slight animosity was appropriate for the role and overall it was “fun” dynamic.
Binoche also acted in Claire Denis’ 2018 sci-fi High Life, which she said was one of her more unconventional experiences. “The sex scenes were unusual, crazy, but I could do it because I know and trust Claire Denis totally.”
In their one-on-one, Diao Yinan discussed how he had been heavily influenced by French New Wave directors in his own work. On stage, the pair resolved to work together in the future.
Before the end of the year, Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake goes directly up against The Truth at the French box office. Yinan said he hoped they could be “friendly rivals”.
The 2019 edition of IFFAM closes tonight (December 10) with a screening of Hong Kong director Hing Fan Wong’s debut feature I’m Livin’ It.