Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'I Don't Need a Man to Tell Me How I Should Behave'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'I Don't Need a Man to Tell Me How I Should Behave'

Article excerpt


The most beautiful woman in movies has never discussed her private life. Until now.

Today the phlegm-swallowing, leg-scratching, dirty-laughing Juliette Binoche tells all

MY only objection to Juliette Binoche's new movie, I say, is that it tells people exactly what they want to hear. Choco-lat is the story of an attractive, sexually up-for-it single mother -Binoche - who opens a chocolate shop in puritanical middle France.

Her enemy, the devout, censorious Comte (and here the actors who speak 'Allo 'Allo franglais must watch their pronunciation), is eventually humiliated and reformed, proving the film's argument that chocolate - ie, sex - is good and abstinence is bad.

But, I say to her, the truth about chocolate is that it makes you fat and it makes you spotty. I bet, I say, looking at her slender frame, which after two children and 36 years still tapers to a slim neck and perfect porcelain skin, she hardly eats any herself.

"No, I do have chocolate. I eat it almost every day," she protests.

"It's full of magnesium. Real chocolate, that is, not that chocolate now allowed in Europe which is full of grease and sugar and vegetable oil.

My dietitian, she recommends hot chocolate for me every morning.

Skimmed milk, with a spoon of cocoa powder and a spoon of honey."

So what tastes good can do you good, I say, as if I have suddenly grasped the movie's moral. "Absolutely. I believe that. Why is it in order to lose weight you have to suffer and not have pleasure? I don't like this idea. I think it's wrong."

Now she is telling us what we want to hear, which makes a change: most journalists would call her a tough interview. Her private life is off limits and she defends it like a tigress on legal aid. Two years ago she won damages and a front-page apology from the French magazine Voici for reporting that she had given the boot to her "joli fianc"" Olivier Martinez, her co-star in Horseman on the Roof, her complaint being not so much that this was inaccurate but that it was intrusive. Over here, meanwhile, she delivers quotes dense with Gallic difficulty. "I am a kind of stewardess.

The plane is the play," she will say, or "Giving birth is like a vase of beautiful flowers." Male interviewers tend to make allowances for cultural and linguistic misunderstanding. The women - funny this - tend not to.

My theory is that her obscurantism is a revenge for the drooling nonsense recited about her by men, male directors especially.

Andr" T"chin", who got her to disrobe in an early film, Rendezvous, once purred that her feet were "in the mud and her head in the stars". Krzysztof Kieslowski, who persuaded her to shed again in Three Colours Blue, thought her the "custodian of some deep, dark secret". Any number of male critics have elaborated on these themes, although, in his dictionary of film biography, David Thomson simply asks: "Is she the most beautiful woman in cinema?" Only occasionally does

someone get a grip, like The Guardian's reviewer in 1988 who assessed that her performance in The Unbearable Lightness of Being required "very little speaking, a lot of sulky staring and an incredible amount of frenzied bonking".

Maybe it is because she is steeling herself for the Oscar-nomination announcement later today, or because her baby, Hanna, granted her only four hours' sleep last night, but this morning, I am glad to say, Binoche hardly troubles to be dark, mysterious or evasive at all. Dressed in a chic trouser suit with a rollneck jumper that almost conceals the mole on her swanlike, she sits upright on her sofa in Claridge's, and looks me in the eye - beautiful (obviously) but also straightforward, warm and, I think, wise to herself.

She is explaining how she started acting to get the attention of her parents. She felt her father, Jean-Marie Binoche, a theatre director, did not "see" her, perhaps because she was the second of his daughters. …

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