Paris Star Juliette Binoche: The Movieline Interview

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The evergreen interweaving-ensemble genre gets an urbane French twist this week in Paris, director Cédric Klapisch's tale of life, death, sex, love and middle-class inertia in the Gallic capital. Fusing Altmanesque whimsy to Crash's social initiative, the film showcases Romain Duris as terminally ill dancer Pierre and Juliette Binoche as his sister Élise, a social- worker single mom who moves herself and her three kids into Pierre's apartment to share his last days. From both his balcony and the street, the pair encounter a range of strivers, scholars, merchants, lovers and other dreamers for whom the city roils with potential even as it slowly devours each.

Klapisch breaks the drama up with dream sequences, musical interludes and sensational glimpses at the Parisian landscape, while Binoche's character struggles with the nature of compassion -- her most bountiful resource in an ancient city compromised by cold, cruel modernity. The Oscar-winner spoke with Movieline last week about relearning Paris for Paris, the joys of observation, and her favorite vision of Paris on film.

So is Paris really as small and interconnected a town as this movie would make it out to be?

Well, there are many different feelings inside the city. You know, like in New York: There's Chinatown, Greenwich Village... wherever you're going, there are differnet feelings. And it's true, you do get to know people when you buy your bread at the same place. You have your habits, and and you get a very "village" sense of relationships. at the same time, it's a city. There's a distance people keep to protect themselves. it depends on the kind of person you are. In a building with apartments, of course you want to make connections. Life is easier that way. There's salt if you don't have salt; you can knock at someone's door, like in any city. But at you know, you can hear the others, and you want to sleep, you get annoyed. You have to adapt. I feel like because it's a space that can be very stressful. People tend to be a little closed up: There's not enough green space, there's not enough silence, there's enough time for people.

I found a solution in leaving. I left Paris 13 years ago because I had a child, and I wanted my child to be in a greener space. Now that he's a teenager, I want him to come back to get all the arts available to him, and to be related with other people and with a more cosmopolitan feeling. So Paris is very necessary -- not only for that, but also for me. I feel like a teenager again. I want to go out!

But is it harder, as Juliette Binoche, to make the connections that your character makes in the film?

It depends how you are. I'm not dressed up like this every day. I'm very down-to-earth and accessible, I think. I take the subway, which I didn't take for a while because I felt annoyed. People would look at me too much or just start talking. And it's true, you do want to have a little privacy as well. But now that I came back with my son, it was great. I felt completely like anybody. It was freedom!

The interconnected narrative style here has definitely been done, and by some people better than others. What appealed to you about Cédric Klapisch's approach to it?

When you make a film it's a bet. You don't know how the film is going to be anyway. You just know, "I have this story to tell in an ensemble. It's about siblings. Its about transformation. It's about everyday, basic life being difficult; about a mother who has to deal with three children and little money." And then other people who have problems. What about them? What about their problems? And so it felt like a touching story in the sense that they're real. So I spent a few days in the sécurité sociale; mostly it's about immigrants who can't find a place to live. Or they don't have enough money, and they want to put their children in school. They're in very difficult situations. Of course I played in The Lovers on the Bridge, where I played a tramp. I spent a lot of time outside, and I know this state from being so close to them -- being with them, actually.

But here it was a little different. How do you deal with everybody's difficulties? You're giving them hope, but there are so many papers to fill out. They have this huge dossier, and there's nothing at the end. There's this absurdity of going through administrative solutions, but they know there's not enough apartments, not enough money, not enough school space and all that. It's a vicious circle that she's in, and it's the absurdity that cities are giving.

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