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Few Spare Moments for Juliette Binoche

Few Spare Moments for Juliette Binoche (photo)

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Juliette Binoche doesn’t have a lot of time. This is impressed on me over successive days leading up to an interview scheduled with much difficulty. Were there an American equivalent to Ms. Binoche, who turned 45 this summer, I’d imagine her with hours and perhaps even months to spare, as she waits out the Hollywood actress’ awkward stage, after the ingénue years and before settling into the wise/bitter matriarch roles. And yet Binoche, born and raised in Paris, has entered the most fruitful (if perhaps hectic) stretch of an already remarkable career, adding explorations of dance and art to her full film slate. Viva la France.

Her role as Élise, a Parisian social worker dealing with her brother’s illness in Cédric Klapisch’s ensemble film “Paris,” is the latest in a line of roles showcasing Binoche’s quiet domination of whatever film she’s in. Having appeared in critical sensations “A Few Days in September,” “The Flight of the Red Balloon” and “Summer Hours” over the last three years, Binoche experienced a reunion, of sorts, with “Paris”: in addition to filming on her native turf, Klapisch is a director she first met in 1986, on the set of “Bad Blood,” where he worked as an electrician. We spoke — briefly! — about their collaboration on her character and how being an outsider might be an advantage when it comes to capturing Paris’s many moods.

You have a distant history with Cédric Klapisch — had you followed his career since then, since he began directing? How did you reconnect for this project?

Yes, I knew him on “Bad Blood,” and we spent one day together during the filming of one particular scene. He was working as an electrician. Since then I knew he was making films — his films are very well-known in France — so yes, I knew his work and we have some of the same friends.

He approached me about this film and we had a nice dinner — we talked about the project but he was still in the middle of writing it, so a lot was up in the air. I suggested that my character be a social worker. Initially I wanted her to have five children from all different regions, you know, of all different stripes. Eventually that changed because that was just a little too much, but the idea of her being a caretaker was something we collaborated on.

Why a social worker? And is she a character that you felt you knew or someone you had to explore a bit more? Through the diversity of its characters, the film touches on aspects of Paris we rarely see, what part of Paris did Élise represent to you?

I thought that by making her a social worker we could have one character who took in the whole city and was exposed to all the different branches of life. As well it meant that taking care of her own life was difficult, because in her professional life she was so focused on taking care of others — it sets up a kind of contradictory situation. I did spend a few days with a Parisian social worker, so I spent some time getting to know what that job is like, but I also knew another aspect of the situation from the time I spent researching my role in “The Lovers on the Bridge,” where my character spent some time outside, and is caught up in a hopeless social situation. You learn that without help or family, it’s very hard to get back into society, and it can be a vicious circle.

09152009_paris2.jpgSocial workers try to provide help, but there’s a lack of money in cities like Paris too, so they end up filling out papers but not offering real solutions, which makes the people they are trying to help even more depressed. It seems like you have to get lucky to get yourself out of a bad situation.

These sorts of ensemble films with interconnected storylines are more and more popular — some of them click and others don’t. What do you think is key to making so many storylines hang together? Why do you think it works in this case?

Well, that’s Cédric’s way of putting it together, I had nothing to do with it. Those are all his choices. I was just excited to get to work with actors I haven’t been able to work with before. I appreciated that, I enjoyed it.

A number of your recent films have been shot in Paris, and it’s such a magnetic city for directors. I’m wondering if you noticed any interesting differences in how, say, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, who was making his first film in the city (“The Flight of the Red Balloon”), approached the task, as opposed to Klapisch, who is known for his work shooting Paris. Did their different perspectives show you anything new about your hometown?

They’re very different, very different. Cédric is a Parisian, he’s lived there his whole life, and he wanted to show a more realistic version of Paris: the everyday Paris, with butchers and models and dancers and social workers — a spectrum of life and interaction.

Hou’s approach was much more impressionistic — even though there is a degree of reality in it. His approach is somehow freer, I think, because he is an outsider. There’s a lightness to it. When you live there, you often get more interested in presenting things as a puzzle, and trying to figure the city out, which is what I think Cédric did.

“Paris” opens in limited release on September 18th.


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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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