September is unofficially Juliette Binoche month at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: the incandescent French actress is featured in in a film retrospective and also appears in the flesh in In-I, in which she dances with co-director and choreographer Akram Kahn. If, like some of her films, In-I ultimately disappoints, it’s another daring decision in the career of a fearless performer.
The hour-long In-I, performed in front of an imposing wall designed by artist Anish Kapoor, is a “theater-dance piece“ that shows the continual tug-of-war in any relationship, from its beginnings to its eventual breakdown. Its hybrid aspect—there are dancing, miming, monologues, even awkward physical comedy—is likely the reason it doesn’t come off, since it’s trying to be too many things at once; its relatively brevity means there’s not enough time for In-I to be anything more than a highlights reel from some longer, more cohesive work.
Still, this collaboration between a daring actress and an adventurous choreographer-dancer has its pleasing moments (the actress Velcroed to the wall for her final monologue is a particular delight), and Binoche’s fierce determination to keep up with Kahn‘s graceful movements is most commendable. There was a scary moment on opening night, when Binoche audibly hit her head on the hard floor while executing a particularly difficult move with Kahn—there were several gasps from audience members around me, but the fearless Binoche just kept going.
The BAMCinematek retrospective of Binoche films, through September 30, shows the award-winning actress‘ range: you can catch her Best Actress (Cesar) turn in Blue on September 21 and Best Supporting Actress (Oscar) performance in The English Patient on September 28, but films she made with cinema’s most well-regarded directors are worth catching.
In Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Flight of the Red Balloon, Binoche is wonderful as a harried single mom whose young son wanders Paris with his Asian babysitter (Sept. 20), while Olivier Assayas’ elegant character study Summer Hours (September 27) contains one of her most indelible portrayals as a middle-aged daughter dealing with her mother’s death and the future of the family’s estate. There’s also her heartfelt turn as an actress playing Mary Magdalene in Abel Ferrara’s Mary (September 29), and her unforgettable performances in a pair of contentious explorations of racism, cultural insensitivity and terrorism by Austrian l’enfant terrible, Michael Haneke: Cache (September 26) and Code Unknown (Sept. 26).
Both onstage and onscreen, Juliette Binoche’s luminous presence lights up BAM this month.
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street
September 15-26, 2009
Rendezvous with Juliette Binoche
30 Atlantic Avenue
September 11-30, 2009