Desert storm

B THE LIST 7—20 Mar 1997

Ralph Fiennes

WITH TWELVE OSCAR and thirteen BAFTA nominations, The English Patient is the film that towers over 1997’s awards season. A beautifully photographed romantic epic. it spans the years before and during World War II, taking in landscapes as diverse as the Sahara desert and the hills of mscany. The film brings together a wonderful international cast. including Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe and Colin Firth.

The English Patient’s story plays out in two connected time frames. In late 1945, a badly burned man is being cared for in an Italian monastery by a Canadian nurse. In flashback. we move to North Africa, where the same man meets an aristocratic English couple and, under

Juliette Binoche: tranquility meets passion

the glare of the desert sun, begins a passionate affair with the woman.

It is ironic that a film so féted by the American film industry was turned down by all the Hollywood studios. After shaping Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel into a screenplay, British director Anthony Minghella teamed up with producer Saul Zaentz, whose mantelpiece is already laden with Oscar statuettes for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus. Finance eventually came from American heavyweight independent company Miramax, and the scene was set for a truly international production. After storming American audiences, the film's next stop is Britain . . .

The English Patient has catapulted French actress Juliette Binoche from arthouse diva to international star. The Oscar nominee with a nice line in double entendres tells of the difficulty in crossing the divide between French and English, and (over) we profile her co- stars and the film director. Words: Alan Morrison

AMERICA’S PIN-UP girls try a nip here, a tuck there, and blow body parts up to Pamela Anderson dimensions. Meanwhile. over in France. the world’s most truly beautiful women look on with a detached sense of amusement. The country‘s actresses have always been celebrated for a sensuality that has a natural glow rather than a manufactured sheen. From the young Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve. the line follows through to Emmanuelle Beart. Julie Delpy and Juliette Binoche.

Binoche in particular captures that European and uniquely French definition of enigmatic beauty. Raven-coloured hair; translucent, ivory skin; rich. brown eyes. The combined effect was best described by perfume company Lancéme two years ago when Binoche took over from Isabella Rossellini as the face of its advertising campaigns ‘she has an astonishing ability to express two things at once: tranquillity on the surface. fire and passion inside’.

That sense of duality is the perfect attribute for a screen actress. so it’s easy to see why Binoche has attracted the attention of directors as diverse as Louis Malle, Krzysztof Kieslowski and, now, Britain’s Anthony Minghella. In The English Patient, Minghella