Career timeline

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 May, 2010, 12:00am

Rendez-vous (1985, pictured below)

Juliette Binoche had already begun working in theatre and television before she got a start in cinema, which saw her involved in productions by Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Doillon. But her big break came with Andre Techine's Rendez-vous, in which she delivers a brazen turn as an aspiring actress struggling with Parisian life, her pending stage debut and the affections of two vastly different men. The performance brought her the first of eight Best Actress nominations at the Cesars.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1986)

Critics were ambivalent about Philip Kaufman's screen adaptation of Milan Kundera's novel, but hardly anyone doubted the actors' intense performances. And Binoche, in her first English-language role, matches her on-screen partner Daniel Day-Lewis on every level with her turn as a small-town waitress adapting to life in Prague just as Russian tanks roll in to crush the country's reform-minded regime. Despite her success, Binoche decided against moving full-time into English-language cinema, setting a pattern which saw her returning home even after acclaimed parts in films such as Damage and The English Patient.

The Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, 1991)

Binoche's collaboration with Leos Carax began in 1986 with The Night is Young (Mauvais Sang), but The Lovers on the Bridge was more memorable - with its tortuous three-year production and the many crises which threatened to sink the film. Finally premiered at Cannes in 1991, the film again saw Binoche on top form, playing a painter reduced to life as a vagrant under the Pont-Neuf bridge as her sight deteriorates, her plight alleviated (and then prolonged) by a fellow street-sleeper.

Three Colours: Blue (1993, below)

The film which elevated Binoche into an icon for arthouse cinema, Krzysztof Kieslowski's first instalment of his Three Colours trilogy saw the actress play a woman recovering from a traffic accident which killed her composer husband and young daughter, and then trying to finish the magnum opus her partner left behind. The role demands a mix of nuanced emotions which Binoche delivers with panache, a performance enhanced by Kieslowski's wonderful mise-en-scene. Binoche won a Cesar for this performance and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

The English Patient (1996, right)

And then onwards to the Academy Awards, with Anthony Minghella's epic wartime romance giving Binoche a Best Supporting Actress title (on her first nomination) with her performance as a love-stricken nurse attending to a severely disfigured and maimed Hungarian aristocrat (Ralph Fiennes) after the Allies' landings in Italy. True to style, Binoche turned her back on Hollywood to return to France and join first Claude Berri (Lucie Aubrac, which she eventually left before shooting began) and then Techine (Alice and Martin).

Code Unknown (2000, right)

Binoche made three films in 2000. Her role as a ditzy confectioner in a provincial town in France in Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat is a crowd-pleasing role in an overtly commercial film, which saw her nominated for the Oscars and Golden Globes again; The Widow of St Pierre, meanwhile, is a piece of solemn 19th century drama set on a French-ruled island off Newfoundland about an army captain's wife trying to save a convict placed under his husband's charge. But the trail-blazer lies with Code Unknown, in which Binoche collaborates with Michael Haneke in a multi-strand story exploring cultural and racial politics in modern-day France. Binoche would eventually reunite with Haneke in 2005's critically acclaimed Hidden.

Bee Season (2005) Dan in Real Life (2007)

Two of Binoche's very few forays into US-set family dramas, and very different they are too. Bee Season sees the actress play the mentally unravelling wife of a controlling Jewish patriarch (Richard Gere), while Dan in Real Life has her playing the bumbling Steve Carell's love interest in a romantic comedy set amidst a family gathering at the beach.

Disengagement (2007, above right) Flight of the Red Balloon (2007)

Binoche's cinematic adventures took a new twist in 2007 as she began working with non-European filmmakers for the first time in her career, with Disengagement giving her the opportunity to collaborate with the Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai, in which she plays a woman looking for her daughter amidst the confusion of the Israeli army's withdrawal from Gaza. Back in Paris, Binoche embarks on an update of Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon with Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, playing a puppetmaster struggling to raise her son with the help of a Chinese student.

Shirin (2008)

Accepting Abbas Kiarostami's invitation to visit Tehran, Binoche agreed to take part in the Iranian filmmaker's experimental project featuring dozens of mostly Iranian actresses reacting to an imaginary film they are supposed to be viewing. While featuring just shots of individuals contemplating and weeping over a flickering image (which does not actually exist - the actresses are actually just watching a blank plate), Shirin is a riveting exercise about storytelling and acting - a prologue to the make-believe romance driving Certified Copy, the film which provided Binoche with a Best Actress award at Cannes last week.