The Weekend Australian - Review - - Arts -

AR­TIS­TI­CALLY, Juli­ette Binoche has never been afraid to roll the dice al­though it has been many years since she took on a re­ally edgy film role. The Academy Award-winning French ac­tor, best known in­ter­na­tion­ally for her break­through in The Un­bear­able Light­ness of Be­ing , The English Pa­tient and the sweet­ness of Choco­lat has spent the past decade tak­ing mostly safe roles in French dra­mas: she may work with provoca­tive di­rec­tor Michael Heneke, for ex­am­ple, but as the qui­etly tor­mented mid­dle-class ma­tron in Hid­den , rather than the mu­si­cian driven to in­san­ity and per­ver­sity by sex­ual re­pres­sion in The Pi­ano Teacher ( Is­abelle Hup­pert took on that role).

That’s not to say Binoche’s act­ing is ever less than im­pec­ca­ble: nu­anced, watch­ful, hu­mor­ous or triste as re­quired. Think of her un­for­get­table per­for­mance in Krysztof Kies­lowski’s po­etic Three Colours: Blue ( 1993), as a woman who turns away from life af­ter her child and hus­band are killed. Yet, in her more re­cent films, per­haps La Binoche had be­come too comfortable as the in­ter­na­tional belle of French cin­ema.

Then a cou­ple of years ago she un­ex­pect­edly en­tered into a risky col­lab­o­ra­tion with ac­claimed Bri­tish dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Akram Khan. The re­sult, In-I , is de­scribed as a syn­the­sis of move­ment and sto­ry­telling in which the two per­form­ers plumb the emo­tional depths of love. It is com­ing to the Syd­ney Opera House next week.

At the same time, Binoche makes an ap­pear­ance dur­ing the French Film Fes­ti­val ( open­ing in Syd­ney on March 4, then other cap­i­tal cities) in Olivier As­sayas’s drama Sum­mer Hours — the FFF is al­most un­think­able without at least one role from Binoche. Mean­while, the State Li­brary of NSW is show­cas­ing yet an­other of her creative en­deav­ours, Por­traits In-Eyes : her book of painted por­traits of film direc­tors she has worked with, and of her­self in char­ac­ter.

Dance, though, has taken Binoche into a new, highly phys­i­cal realm, and al­lowed Khan — the ac­claimed Lon­don-born Bangladeshi who melds West­ern con­tem­po­rary dance and the In­dian clas­si­cal Kathak style — to ex­plore an­other facet of per­for­mance.

It all be­gan with a mas­sage, says Binoche. She is speak­ing by phone from Le­ices­ter, bang in the mid­dle of Eng­land and amid the heav­i­est snow­falls for decades. She has just fin­ished an­other gru­elling work­out, stretch­ing, leap­ing and pre­par­ing her 44-year-old mus­cles for her per­for­mance that night.

‘‘ I was in Lon­don shoot­ing a movie, and my masseuse asked me if I wanted to dance, and I said yes without hav­ing any idea why she would ask me that, or what sort of con­se­quence it would have,’’ she says with a laugh.

( Off screen and off stage, Binoche is known for

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