The French love their beautiful women. When you think of the great French actresses, you get a list of astonishing beauties, including Sandrine Bonnaire, Catherine Deneuve, Marion Cotillard, Isabelle Huppert, Sophie Marceau, etc. These actresses are generally treated well, like royalty, in the French film industry, and they keep getting strong roles well into their 50s and 60s, when most Hollywood actresses are forced to move to television or retire. But there's something odd about these women; many of them have an icy quality. Perhaps they're too high on a pedestal, or too regal. They sometimes lack sensuality or humor. Brigitte Bardot was one exception, and Audrey Tautou is definitely cute, but it's hard to think of French actresses flirting or smiling. (Each time I picture Jeanne Moreau, she's pouting.)
I don't want to make a callous generalization here, so all of this brings me to my point: Juliette Binoche, the happy exception to the rule. She's perhaps one of the most beautiful of all French actresses, and for years, she probably enjoyed the worship of a cult of beauty. She was perfect, porcelain, and quietly skillful. Yet in recent years, she entered her 40s and has softened up a bit, both in appearance and in her reserve. She seems warmer, and more sensual now, much more approachable and lovable. And at the same time, her onscreen performances have also loosened up. She now seems capable of playing inside a moment to such a degree that she's not even acting anymore. She's so comfortable that she brings breath and blood and pulsing life to every moment.