Binoche on a roll with French cinema

Buoyant figures revealed at awards ceremony

by Richard Mowe

Juliette Binoche gave an emotional acceptance speech as she received her French Cinema Award at the Ministry of Culture in Paris
Juliette Binoche gave an emotional acceptance speech as she received her French Cinema Award at the Ministry of Culture in Paris Photo: Richard Mowe

The denizens of le cinéma français are never shy about blowing their own trumpets: this year at the Unifrance Rendez-vous with French Cinema in Paris they have something genuine to shout about with tickets sales for French films overseas last year almost doubling from the previous year to some 80.5 million.

Juliette Binoche: “Being recognised here in my home country, it just makes me so happy.”
Juliette Binoche: “Being recognised here in my home country, it just makes me so happy.” Photo: Richard Mowe

Although its performance was regarded as a disappointment in some quarters, Luc Besson’s sci-fi fantasy Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets sold more than 306 million tickets across the globe.

Other pertinent points from the presentation at the Ministry of Culture in Paris, where Juliette Binoche received a French Cinema Award for her contribution to the promotion of French films overseas, included the fact that China surpassed the US as the number one market for French films for the first time, with Russia coming in third.

Although many of the top performing French films of the last few years, including Besson’s Taken series and Lucy with Scarlett Johansson, were in the English language, it was emphasised over 50% of the French box office abroad in 2017 consisted of films in the French language. These included Omar Sy’s comedy Two Is A Family, which sold nearly five million tickets.

The rest of the top ten once again underlines the diversity of French production, with the success of the animated film The Jungle Bunch: The Movie (the 4th best-selling French film of the year), the comedies R.A.I.D. Special Unit, Christmas & Co. and Penny Pincher!, and the dramas Elle with Isabelle Huppert (last year’s award recipient) and Miss Sloane with Jessica Chastain.

Unifrance Director General Isabelle Giordano and Juliette Binoche with her French Cinema Award
Unifrance Director General Isabelle Giordano and Juliette Binoche with her French Cinema Award Photo: Richard Mowe

In the gilded salons of the Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, Binoche was clearly emotional as she accepted the award and paid tribute to the directors she had worked with over the years, among them Olivier Assayas, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Danièle Thompson and Claire Denis for her most recent international success Let The Sunshine In with Gérard Depardieu. The show reel glimpsed her winning the Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in The English Patient.

Among the 70 films in which she starred, Binoche delivered critically acclaimed performances in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, Three Colours: Blue and The Lovers On The Bridge.

She has just completed work on new films by Claire Denis (High Life) and Olivier Assayas (Non Fiction), and will soon be in production for Naomi Kawase's latest film, Vision.

Binoche sees herself as a free spirit, often more appreciated outside France. “I’ve travelled a lot. I’ve been on the road a lot, and sometimes I felt I was more loved abroad — because actors are paranoid, I’m afraid — but now being recognised here in my home country, it just makes me so happy,” she said.

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