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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

How busy are you this month? Well, here's what the French movie star Juliette Binoche has on her calendar: She is in New York, dancing with British choreographer Akram Khan to music by composer Philip Sheppard.

(Soundbite of song, "In-i")

The piece is called "In-i." Binoche also paints, and she's showing her work in New York - paintings and poems. And then there are the movies.

Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for her English-language role in "The English Patient." Now, she's in a recent French-language film that just opened in the U.S. It is called "Paris," and she plays a single mother who moves in with her ailing brother to care for him.

(Soundbite of film, "Paris")

Ms. JULIETTE BINOCHE (Actress): (As Elise) (Foreign language spoken).

SIEGEL: Your uncle is very, very sick and he may die, she tells her children.

Well, last week, I asked Binoche about all this creative energy in all these diverse art forms.

Ms. BINOCHE: Well, it's true that I have energy. I was born with a lot of energy. But of course, you know, you've got to put your energy somewhere in -to be creative, and so it makes sense, you know? If it's a splash of energy, it's not always, you know, focusing on reality somehow. So - but what happened is that it came as a snowball. You know, I started with the dance idea and touring with Akram Khan, and…

SIEGEL: This is your dance before you…

Ms. BINOCHE: That's my dance.

SIEGEL: This is your beginning as a dancer, actually.

Ms. BINOCHE: And my end as well.

SIEGEL: And your end as well. I see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BINOCHE: Because I started to dance at 43, and I like challenges. It's not like I thought, oh, let's do it, you know, because it's usually the time where dancers quit, but it was - just came out of the blue, and I was enthusiastic in doing something new. And so I started with that, and we were going to tour, and I was thinking, I'd love to show my films in different places because we went to China, to Japan, to Australia, to Europe and all that and…

SIEGEL: So you had a Juliette Binoche festival in Brooklyn?

Ms. BINOCHE: So we had - and we had a retrospective at BAM's as well, you know, of my films because I've been working - I was privileged enough to work with a lot of different directors coming from different worlds, you know. And that was really my vision when I started as an actress at 18. I wanted to work with many different minds and visionary people, and I didn't mind about being in a world, to belong to a world. I didn't want to stay French, but I didn't want to belong to Hollywood world. I didn't want to belong to anybody's kind of system. I wanted to be free and independent. So as - I'm sorry, it's a monologue I'm doing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BINOCHE: But as you asked me the first question, I'm just continuing as the snowball continues. And then…

SIEGEL: Yes, you are a snowballing, yeah. Go ahead, though.

Ms. BINOCHE: Yeah, and then after, I thought, oh, I'd like to be kind of active in this retrospective film because I'm not interested in the past. And so, I thought of those portraits, you know, doing those portraits of directors, as well as self-portraits, you know…

SIEGEL: These are your paintings of…

Ms. BINOCHE: They're my paintings. They're inks.

SIEGEL: …of filmmakers, and self-portraits as well.

Ms. BINOCHE: Exactly.

SIEGEL: That change from film to film.

Ms. BINOCHE: Exactly. And as I was doing them, I wanted to have a link with them again. And so naturally, I started writing.

SIEGEL: So - but just to clarify for people listening, this means you've come to New York, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with a dance performance where they've been showing all of your films, many of your films. You also have an exhibit of your artwork.

Ms. BINOCHE: At the French embassy, yeah.

SIEGEL: And there are accompanying poems that you've written that relate to the different films.

Ms. BINOCHE: Right. Right.

SIEGEL: That is the most multimedia month I think that I've ever heard of anybody having.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BINOCHE: Well, it's - I've always painted somehow and I - the dance for me is - it's not that I've ever danced before. I exercise quite a lot because I like to be aware of my body, you know? And as an actor, I think it's important, but it's a medium that fascinates me. And I'd say that, you know, as I paint, I'm dancing on the paper, and as I'm dancing onstage, I'm drawing in the space. So it depends how you see things. But still, there's the idea of coming from a very intimate, hidden place inside you and coming out, having the bravery, the courage to expand yourself into a different scale, and that was for me, that was the excitement of it.

SIEGEL: I'd just like to ask you a little bit about English. You went as a teenager to London, was it, to learn English, or to Britain, to be an au pair?

Ms. BINOCHE: Yeah. I was sent, yeah, by my mother.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: And the idea was, you're going to learn English.

Ms. BINOCHE: Well, the idea is for all teenagers to learn English because that's your wings, you know, to go into the world, anywhere you want to go, and talk to people. And so for me, that was - I started dreaming in English when I was 14 because I wanted to not stay French. I didn't want to keep up on being in rules and boundaries. I wanted to be free.

SIEGEL: Can you imagine working in a language that you don't speak at all and, line by line, being coached to say it? Can one act enough with the rest of one's being to get around the language?

Ms. BINOCHE: Yeah. I've had this experience several times because I was playing an Afrikaner in South Africa and had to learn lines in Afrikaans, which I didn't know. So I learned to say (foreign language spoken) for about two weeks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: I believe you implicitly there.

Ms. BINOCHE: The (foreign language spoken). You know it's a kah(ph) and rah(ph) at the same time, which is hell, (foreign language spoken). And in Bosnia, I had to learn some phrases. If I remember, there was something like (foreign language spoken). Well, I can't remember now because it's been years.

But I mean, you've got to learn those things and feel them, of course. It's - there's a moment as an actor you feel like you're almost like you're there in order to make bridge between what's going on in people's mind and heart. So they get the sensation of what it feels like to be there. I think we're here to make a life more aware, for people being more aware of what's going on in here.

SIEGEL: Well, just back to your very busy fall here for a moment. Doing all that you're doing, do you find yourself mindful of what film critics, dance critics, art critics and literary critics say about your work?

Ms. BINOCHE: I have to say that I do mind, of course, because I'm human and I, you know, of course, I want to be loved, like any human being. At the same time, I know that I'm plunging into it. And sometimes, people like it, sometimes, they don't get it, they don't like it. They - so that's OK. It's part of it.

I have to say that last night, it was our premiere here in New York, and we hadn't done a show for five months because I was doing things, Akram was doing other things, and we had three days' rehearsal. Can you imagine?

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BINOCHE: So I give a little pat on my shoulder, and say OK, Juliette, it may be not the best performance ever but, you know, you didn't break your knees.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BINOCHE: You didn't break your ankles. You're still alive. You went through it and it's OK. You know, you've got to be a little huggy with yourself. Otherwise, you know, life is too tough. You've got to learn to love yourself.

SIEGEL: Well, Juliette Binoche, thank you very much for talking with us today.

Ms. BINOCHE: Thank you. It was delightful.

SIEGEL: You can see portions of that dance piece, "In-i," and some of Binoche's paintings at npr.org.

(Soundbite of credit)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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