Actress Juliette Binoche on Why She Couldn't Resist; Rendezvous ; and More

Actress Juliette Binoche, the captivating star of such films as "The English Patient" and "Blue," says that she rarely says no to a project -- though she was thisclose to doing so with "Rendezvous," which opened in U.S. theaters on Friday.

In the Guillaume Canet film, she plays a woman grappling with a profound emotional crisis after the unexpected death of her husband.

"I didn’t want to do it at first because I didn’t understand the script," Binoche said in an interview this week at the Cannes Film Festival, where "Rendezvous" (or "Luck" as it was known on the festival circuit) premiered in the official selection.

"I said, 'I don’t get it. It’s not clear to me.'"

But after further discussions with Canet, the film’s writer and director, she said she discovered a “poetic” ambiguity at the story’s core that she found compelling.

"There are things that are not explained, and I like that," Binoche said, speaking through an interpreter. "It’s mysterious, and it touches something in you that is not obvious. You have to bring something of yourself, and you’re not sure where the story is going."

In the film, Binoche’s character, Helen, retreats to the family cabin by the sea where she is joined by her brother (Nick Offerman), and her husband’s collaborator (Canet), with whom she eventually enters into a fraught and complicated affair.

The film is a showcase for Binoche, who is captivating as the emotionally fraught woman navigating a labyrinth of grief. At the film’s outset, she’s barely alive, and her character’s journey to recovery, however tenuous, is masterfully rendered.

"I knew it was going to be an extreme part, emotionally speaking," Binoche said. "That attracted me, of course, but also made me a little nervous."

The film marks Binoche’s latest collaboration with Canet, whom she previously worked with on the romantic drama "Little White Lies," and the English-language political thriller "The Secret in Their Eyes," which starred Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

"I love working with Guillaume. He’s a brilliant director,” Binoche said. "He’s a actor himself, so he knows how to direct actors. You can really trust him, and that’s crucial. You never know what’s going to happen when you start a film, but you have to commit yourself, and he’s someone you can commit yourself to."

Binoche, who won the best-actress Academy Award in 1997 for "The English Patient," has a knack for selecting intriguing projects, many of which have a strong European identity.

Along with "Rendezvous," which is largely set on the French Riviera, her upcoming films include "The Powder Keg," a Danish western starring Mads Mikkelsen, and "Paris Memories," which was shot in the French capital.

"I rarely say no to a film," Binoche said. "If I do, it’s because I don’t understand it, or because I feel that I’m not the right person to do it. I’m not picky -- I just want to do films that are interesting, and that I can connect to."

That goes for projects closer to home, too.

This year, Binoche made her directorial debut with "Quarterlife," a documentary about four young people grappling with environmental issues close to her heart.

"I’m not a journalist. I’m not objective," Binoche said. "When you make a documentary, you have a point of view. You have to be aware of that, and I am. I have my opinions, and I wanted to make a film that reflected those."

Her next project is acting in and producing a new adaptation of "Anna Karenina," which will be directed by Joe Wright, who previously collaborated with Binoche on "Hanna."

Of her frequent work with distinguished auteurs, Binoche said simply: "I like to be challenged."

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