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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Juliette & Julia

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I haven't seen "Julie & Julia" yet - the new movie about chef Julia Child and Julie Powell - and I think I need to, but I was thinking about two other movie women recently: Juliette & Julia.

Don and I watched "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" a couple weeks past, and we were sure the daughter of Cate Blanchett's character was played by Juliette Binoche, which just shows that even an earnest fan like me can mix these two up. It was in fact Julia Ormond who played Caroline in Benjamin Button, of course. Well, can you blame me for mixing up two brunettes with chiseled cheekbones, dark eyes and names that sound similar? I mean, they were even born less than a year apart - Juliette in 1964 (March 9) and Julia in 1965 (January 4).

Two of my all time favorite characters in the movies are Binoche's Hana in "The English Patient" and Ormond's "Sabrina" in the revisit of Audrey Hepburn's 1954 role. These two movies, like the actresses, are also one year apart - 1996 and 1995 respectively. One reason they are favorites is because I'm a Francophile, and Sabrina goes to Paris to study photography, while Binoche is just, well, French. If I were an adolescent again mimicking actresses, these are the ones I'd want to see looking back in the mirror with their eager and eternal eyes. (I didn't mean to alliterate that.)

Both films are about women growing up. Sabrina is the chauffeur's daughter in love with the prodigal prince of the estate, David. She is viewed with class prejudice by David's older and steadier brother Linus, the way Mr. Darcy and his rich aunt viewed Miss Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice. The pain she suffers in this romantic comedy starts in unrequited love as a teenager and develops into downright rejection for her station in life even after becoming a respectable career woman. In "The English Patient," Hana is an army nurse surrounded by death and injury, including her dearest loved ones. The dying burn patient she sequesters in an abandoned convent is upper class like David and Linus, a Hungarian Count. She is the listener to the patient's stories as he flashes back to before his accident. He educates her:

PATIENT: Heroditus is the father of history, did you know that?
HANA: I don't know anything. (She says this as she is peeling a plum to feed him, like a mother bird.)

It is an old fashioned theme - the feminine innocent being taught and shaped by wiser, more powerful male players, either in the male stratosphere of high finance in "Sabrina" or in the bloody fields of men's war in "The English Patient." Sabrina and Hana are written and played by Ormond and Binoche as modern women who make their own choices within the limits and flaws of a world that has been conceived for millennia by men. And more than that, just like Florence Nightingale who scrapped a life of wealth and ease to nurse the poor and helpless, there is a sense that these two want to transform the damage they find with their simple touch.

When Linus asks Sabrina where she got her name, she tells him her father found it in a poem:
"Sabrina fair, listen where thou art sitting under the glassy, cool, translucent wave, in twisted braids of lilies knitting the loose train of thy amber-dropping hair."
Linus asks, "So, your little poem...what does it mean?"

Sabrina replies, "It's the story of a watersprite who saves a virgin from a fate worse than death."

Linus: "And Sabrina is the virgin?"

Sabrina: "Sabrina is the saviour."

















Here is a music video of Sting singing "Moonlight" from "Sabrina."

55 comments:

VioletSky said...

My favourite Juliette Binoche movie is Chocolat. Am afraid I'm not a fan of the movie The English Patient - though I absolutely loved the book - but she made a perfect Hana. And I've not dared to watch the remake of Sabrina, though maybe I should? Can anyone be as good Audrey?

Ruth said...

Violetski, Ondaatje's book is gorgeous, I agree, and I love its minimalism and restraint, so different from the lush epic-ness of the movie. But I saw the movie 5 times in the theater, if that tells you anything.

The 1995 Sabrina doesn't really compare to Audrey's 1954 version, but for a romantic comedy, it was just fine and I enjoy it, even if I do squirm a little at some of the sentimentality.

*jean* said...

i agree with you about these two! i love choclat also and thought that lena olin was wonderful in that movie...she was also fabulous in a little film called the unbearable lightness of being...an oldie but a goodie...

meryl streep is perfect as julia child - it was a delightfully funny film in my opinion..

Pat said...

I am more familiar with Juliette Binoche's work - The English Patient, Chocolat, even that movie with the guy who played in the 40 year old Virgin. In this movie he plays a widower with 3 children who all go back to the family home for a weekend visit and he falls in love with Juliette, who happens to be his brother's girlfriend. I'm having a senior moment - can't remember the name of the movie! Darn! But she played such a good part! Her face really conveyed her feelings.

California Girl said...

I've done the same thing, confused the two. As you say, same age, brunettes, beautiful.

I became enamored of Juliette Binoche in "Chocolat". What a fun film. Never has chocolate sounded so desirable as from her lips. Of course, Johnny Depp didn't hurt.

I first remember seeing Julia Ormond in "Legends of the Fall". She was a lovely Guinevere to Richard Gere's Lancelot in "First Knight" (what I wouldn't give...). I was mad about her in "Sabrina". The remake did the original justice, seldom the case in the movies. I had to look up her character in "Benjamin Button" as I could not remember it. She played Cate Blanchette's grown daughter, reading aloud from the dying mother's diary as she lay in the hospital. A subtle role.

Binoche has done alot of movies, most in French cinema. In reading about her, I realized I've never seen "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". I have just ordered it and another movie, "Paris, Je T'aime" thanks to your post.

Ruth said...

Jean, oh you are right, Lena Olin is wonderful in it, and so beautiful. I read Unbearable Light of Being but haven't seen the film.

I think I'll see Julia & Julie when it comes out on DVD. Julia was such a treasure.

Ruth said...

Pat, I can't help you with that one either. I haven't seen Paris,je t'aime, but I saw Les amants du Pont-Neuf, which was wonderful, about lovers who were homeless in Paris. Also, the tri-colors of Kieslowski - she is in Bleu, which is one of my favorites too. Her face really does convey so much.

Ruth said...

California Girl, please also watch the Tri-Colors of Kieslowski, so good. In Bleu she is haunting. And I'm pretty sure Kieslowski liked high heels on a pretty pair of legs after seeing those three films in the series. And I will also queue Paris, je taime. It sounds great, 18 5-minute shorts!

CottageGirl said...

OK.
I've got to get this out of the way ...

First ... You must go to see Julie and Julia.

Period.



Both Jules of which you speak are so very lovely, aren't they ... I didn't realize that they had so much in common ... and I also think both have a bit of an air of mystery about them, you don't want to look away ...

Loved Binoche in Chocolat.

Loved Ormond in Button.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Both truly lovely.
The English Patient remains a favourite book of mine. Juliette was the highlight of the movie for me.

I never could manage to see the remake of Sabrina, however. Audrey stole my heart in the original and would not give it back. I think of that movie every time I hear the song, "Isn't It Romantic".

Shaista said...

I love these two actresses as well Ruth, both are intense, soulful, honest. Did you hear about Juliette's piece of dance-drama with the brilliant British dancer/choreographer Akram Khan? She had never danced before, despite possessing a dancer's grace.
Sabrina is a favourite family film, and I have to say I preferred the film of the English Patient. It is almost as though book and film are strangers to each other.
Have you been writing much poetry lately? I remember your beautiful poem about birds...
Shaista

Bob Johnson said...

I watched GI JOE last night,lol, love the Sting video!!

Celeste Maia said...

I have seen both movies too. And I must say that The English Patient is so much more interesting, poetical, and intriguing than Sabrina. That scene in the English Patient when Hanna is hanging from a rope looking at the frescoes on the wall is for me the best and strongest in the movie.
Michael Ondaatje is one of my favorite writers, and I also love his poetry.
Juliette Binoche was great in the movie "The Unbearable Lightness of Things", based on the book by Kundera. And also in the trilogy "Bleu".

shicat said...

Love Binoche,but I have to admit I am not familiar with the other actress. I didn't see the remake of Sabrina,I was probably being a snob. Now I will have to rent it. Thanks Ruth.

Vagabonde said...

I am pleased that you are a Francophile as, because of my posts on St Pierre et Miquelon, I have been reading a site showing all the French bashing and Francophobes here in the US and it is so very depressing. I did not realize that French bashing was so widespread. I think I’ll talk about it in my next post. I saw Paris je t’aime and that was good but I liked Julie and Julia even better – well I was a big fan of Julia Child and have all her books.

Ruth said...

Ok, CottageGirl, I'll try to see it before it leaves the theater - hope I'm not too late.

I need to see Chocolat again. But I didn't make it through Button and heard later it got better at the end. I found it incredibly boring.

Ruth said...

Pamela, there is no other like Audrey. But these three have that certain feminine thing in their roles that involves intelligence, kindness and curiosity and makes them very appealing to me.

Ruth said...

Shaista, I had not heard of that collaboration, but I found this video of it here. Such intense and raw improvisation! I think I would be crying to participate that way, in that depth.

I have been writing a little poetry, mostly here at the blog, prompted by photographs. I stopping participating in my poetry writing group. When I am very busy and stressed it is hard to find space for long term poems.

Ruth said...

Ha, Bob! The preview looked pretty good. I like the preview scenes with the chap who keeps bungling with his "armor."

The Sting video is great, I agree. He is nice to listen to and watch. Well, and the dancer. :)

Ruth said...

Celeste, you conjured my favorite scene in The English Patient. And well yes the levels of the movies can't be compared I suppose. But I am a sucker for a good romantic comedy, and Sabrina old and new are delicious, because of Hepburn and Ormond mostly.

Binoche in Bleu is terrific.

Ruth said...

Cathy, when I watch the new Sabrina I don't think about the old one, or I try not to. If you watch the new one, let me know what you think of Julia Ormond. There is a scene when she and Harrison Ford are eating some Eastern food with their hands, and her hands alone offer such an elegant, captivating dance that the scene belongs to them. And her face!

Susan said...

Oh, Chocolat! I love that movie and have watched it so many times! I liked the comment about not being able to take your eyes off either one of these actresses...they make whatever movie they are in. I thought Sabrina was okay, but only because of Ormond. I don't care for Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear couldn't light a candle to William Holden.

In my opinion, Julia Ormond and Tilda Swinton stole Benjamin Button. And it does get better at the end.

I love saying Juliette Binoche...it just rolls off the tongue.

That photo of Binoche looks a lot like Rachel Griffiths.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, it is easy for me to be philosophical about Francophobia, because I am not French, but I understand something of the depressing part with all the bashing of Americans. In our last President's tenure, it was painful feel that the entire world thought we were all idiots (should I refrain from saying "like him"?) for "electing him." Bla bla bla.

Anyway.

Julia - what a treasure! I have the Mastering the Art of French Cooking set, and it has helped me with a few French dishes, for which I am very grateful.

Ruth said...

Susie! You're back from your long day of driving, again, poor thing.

Ormond's narrating voice got me at the opening of Sabrina, and I was in her power the rest of the story.

Please watch the dance collaboration I linked in my comment to Shaista, Binoche is a revelation.

Nancy said...

I loved both of those movies. The remake of Sabrina was extraordinary. I also loved her in "Chocolate" with Johnny Depp. My youngest daughter watches that movie every time she visits us. I had no idea Sting could sing love songs like that! Wow, I'm seeing him in a whole new light.

Arti said...

Wonderful post! You've written about two of my favorite movie characters and actors. Who wouldn't love Juliette Binoche. The English Patient is one of my all time faves. I've the DVD and seen it many times, including the excellent special features. And P & P, Darcy and Lizzy... oh, just too good to read all of these discussed in one post!

I've seen JB in Kieslowski's Bleu. Excellent and powerful... both actor and director. And, if you're a Francophile, and a JB fan, maybe you've seen this, but if not, then you really should get a hold of it: Flight of the Red Balloon, a remake of the 1956 classic short Le Ballon Rouge. A gem! (If you're interested, click on my review on my sidebar).

And back to the English Patient... I had the privilege to listen to Michael Ondaatje reading and being interviewed recently in Banff's Summer Arts Festival. It was such a pleasure to talk to him, albeit very briefly, while he signed his book The English Patient for me. What an exciting moment.

Thank you so much for a gratifying post... and hey, you're a good movie reviewer. I look forward to more movie talk from you!

Sally's World said...

I thought they were the same woman at first and i love this song xxx

Ruth said...

Nancy, there is something about the pause in Binoche's face and demeanor that lifts any movie she is in to another plane.

Ruth said...

Arti, I saw the old Red Balloon, but not the Flight of the Red Balloon. I will look for it, thank you.

I'm glad you had a wonderful experience with Ondaatje's book signing. It must be one of the biggest challenges for authors, to continue to meet strangers and yet it is their duty to keep selling books. To connect with a fan and make them feel as you did is a gift. I had a not so great experience meeting Orhan Pamuk after building it up for his signing. But when he spoke that evening, he wiped away any little resentments I'd had that he didn't rave over my Turkish pronunciation of "thank you", ha.

Thank you for thinking this review is good, coming from you that's wonderful.

Ruth said...

Sally, it's a pretty soothing song when you're feeling angry. :)

Claudia said...

I love those two movies as well although I don't think that "the feminine innocent being taught and shaped by wiser, more powerful male players" is an old fashioned theme, rather a romantic one that is still very actual.

Juliette Binoche is one of my favorite actresses and the three roles that made her so are Bleu, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The English Patient. Chocolat is a pretty movie but she truly shines her most in rather deeper roles.

I hadn't seen Julia Ormond on the big screen for a very long time. It was nice to see her back in Benjamin Button. By the way, did you like BB?

Ruth said...

Claudia, you're right about "old fashioned" - and what I didn't say is that I think it is still a relevant theme too. I thought a long time about how to word that, and I still didn't quite get it just how I meant it.

I still haven't seen Unbearable Lightness, but I thought she was stellar in Bleu and English Patient.

No, I did not like BB, in fact I couldn't bear to finish it, and we turned it off out of boredom. I loved Tilda Swinton's scenes. Unfortunately, I may have missed the best part of the movie by not watching to the end. What about you?

Claudia said...

I was really disappointed with it. Fitzgerald's short story has a lot of potential as a great movie adaptation. It was completely wasted. The acting was no more than suffrable (except, as you say, for Tilda's) and even the whole display of special effects - I guess that's what all the hype was about - didn't save the movie from being terribly boring.

alice said...

I know Juliette Binoche (of course! Who doesn't know her in France?), but I didn't know Julia Ormond... Now, I'm going to pay attention!

Ruth said...

Claudia, yes, the hype as I look back now was all about the special effects. By the time I watched it, even the effects seemed artificial and forced. It happens often that high or low expectations mean I will be disappointed or happily surprised by a movie.

Ruth said...

Cher Alice, our Ormond is no Binoche, but she really is lovely. There is a quietness about her that is quite appealing.

João said...

I also at first thought it was Binoche playing the part on Benjamin Bottom, from that movie I was quite impressed with Tilda Swinton...You have to try to get hold of Les amants du pont neuf with Binoche, very intense also Breaking and entering, and also check you tube for her work as a dancer...by now you have noticed that I'm a Binoche fan, but what can I do...I have a soft spot for girlies movies like Sabrina...

Ruth said...

João, I loved Les amants du pont neuf, though it was disturbing too. And to see Binoche with an eyepatch! Yes, Shaista also told me about the dance project with Akram Khan, and it was intense. I admire her very much.

shicat said...

Hi Ruth, I was reading the Free Press on Sun. and noticed this bit of news and thought of YOU!

2009 Natl.Geographic Photo Contest

www.ngphotocontest.com
contest ends Oct. 31.
Go girl!

Annie said...

English Patient is one of my favourite movies and Sting is my favourite artist.

Oliag said...

I just saw the movie "Julie and Julia" on Friday night and your post was not what I was expecting after I read the title:) Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci in all of the Paris scenes are worth seeing the movie for...the modern half of it not so much so...Anyway, I enjoy your take on the title more than I would have a review of the movie!

It is amazing how much these two actresses look alike! Juliette Binoche is one of my favorite actors...How I loved her in "The English Patient"...and "Bleu"...and "Chocolat". Julia Ormond I am not really familiar with altho I did like "Sabrina". My Netflix list is almost as long as my book TBR list but I just may have to rewatch a few movies!

I haven't seen "Benjamin Button" and wasn't inclined to...seems to have mixed reviews with your commentors too...

Ruth said...

Cathy, it touches me that you thought of me, thank you.

I would love to see rauf enter one of his, he has so many of people that just go straight to my heart.

Ruth said...

Annie, I'm happy to oblige your favorites today.

Ruth said...

Oliag, ha. Years ago when I bought Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I was somewhat (in my lazy way) determined to go through the books, the way Julie did. I think I had heard of her then. I do want to see it, for Paris, for Julia, for Tucci (I didn't he was in it, thank you), for food.

Please see Lovers on the Bridge - Binoche with an eye patch! You'll never look at Paris the same again, it's about the homeless there. I think I need to watch Bleu again too. I was quite surprised to realize it was Ormond in Benjamin Button, since I hadn't seen her in anything in so long - since Sabrina.

Please do avoid BB. I can't remember the last time I saw such a hyped movie that was that unsatisfying.

Ginnie said...

You will LOVE the Julie & Julia movie for Meryl Streep alone but also because of all the cooking, which is important to you! Let me/us know when you see it! And BTW, I saw The Vistor the other day and LOVED it. You were right to recommend it to me.

Juliette and Julia are another two great actresses I adore. Don't forget Julia in Legends of the Fall and Juliette in Chocolat. It doesn't get much better than that!

Jeanie said...

What a wonderfully thoughtful post about two of my favorite actresses and their movies. (And might I add "Chocolat" in the Binoche category! And linkinig it into Pride and Prejudice -- well, it's all right there in one post! And Sting, too!

Ruth said...

Oh, Boots, I'm glad you loved The Visitor. I still think about it. I will absolutely see J & J, I just don't know if it will be in the theater.

I think I saw Ormond first in Legends. You know our Michigan writer Jim Harrison wrote that book.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, I imagine in your line of work you are exposed to every good movie, TV series, piece of art, etc. I wonder if you are going to meet Ken Burns when he is here??

dutchbaby said...

My favorite actress of all time is Audrey Hepburn, but my favorite living actress is Juliette Binoche. She caught my attention when she played opposite Jeremy Irons in the steamy movie "Damage". Whenever my sister and I are in Paris and see impressive church doors, we look at each other and give each other a knowing look and say "Could these be the doors?" If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Dutchbaby, that movie Damage was powerful, so much so that I couldn't finish it I was so disturbed. It probably would have been good to watch it through to see what happened. But watching their intense "love making" - violent, really - I just couldn't keep watching. I don't have a thing against it, it's just a personal level of sensitivity about it.

Ruth said...

I had completely forgotten about the movie and that Binoche was in it, Dutchbaby.

dutchbaby said...

It was indeed a very disturbing movie which is why I remembered it for so many years. I have to admit a voyeuristic fascination with it. I felt the movie truly explained how powerful politicians set off down a spiral of destruction. I completely understand your inability to finish it, though both Irons and Binoche were brilliant in it.

Ruth said...

I understand your perspective too, Dutchbaby.

rauf said...

No Button yet Ruth i missed it and don't regret, though Fincher is my favourite. i feel sad when i don't recall the scenes from Sabrina, my memory is fading, brain deteriorating. But i remember every scene in which Julia Ormand appeared in an older movie 'First Knight' and still older 'Legends of the Fall' in which she was most beautiful. i think the impact an incident, movie, music creates matters most. Remembering forgetting is not in our hands Ruth, what really decides i do not know. i place Juliet Binoche with Ingrid and Hepburn, Audrey i mean, very graceful and a face radiating kindness. Radiating is not a right word please place more appropriate word here Ruth. Strange that i never really liked Katherine Hepburn, brilliant she was though, she always made me uncomfortable.

Ruth said...

rauf, in my ignorance I did not know who Fincher was, had to look him up on imdb.com. Oh I love Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, Se7en, Alien - wow, how do I not know his name? I was just telling someone about The Game the other day, I love that movie and never get tired of watching it. Oh and he does music videos too - Madonna, Sting, Aerosmith, George Michael. Wow.

Inge always wonders about memory too, why we remember some things and not others. We were just talking about it last night.

I saw the video you posted at FB of First Knight, the funeral pyre, what a lovely scene, so beautiful.