Friday, June 8, 2007
It has been twenty years since Philip Kaufman wrapped up production on his incredibly poetic and moving film THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. Adapted from the near un-shootable novel by Milan Kundera and starring Daniel Day Lewis, Lena Olin and a young Juliette Binoche, Kaufman's work remains one of my favorite films from the eighties and I film that I never tire of re-visiting.
This lovely film played for exactly one week in Evansville, Indiana the summer after my Freshman year in high school and I missed it. Evansville was just a short distance from where I lived but I couldn't get out to the theater that week. It was probably the provocative stills of Lena Olin that made me initially want to see the film but when I finally caught it on video that next year it was Juliette Binoche that captivated me like few actresses had before or since.
Juliette was just 24 when she shot THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING and it was the first time that most American audiences would have gotten a look at her. One of the most powerful actors of all time with a face that could break even the most jaded heart, Binoche's role as Tereza remains one of her greatest and most often overlooked.
Binoche is often associated with a certain coldness, mostly because of her astonishing performance in Kieslowski's BLUE, but as Tereza she is so warm, vulnerable and incredibly wide-eyed. There are very few performances in screen history that portray self discovery better than Juliette in this role. The journey Tereza goes through in the film is exhilarating and has been unforgettable to me in the 18 years since this film first entered my life.
Jean-Claude Carriere's remarkable script is still as fresh and literate as it was back when this film was first released and the Sven Nykvist shot film remains one of the most beautiful looking films to come out of the eighties.
The film has had a troubling history on DVD and it is currently out of print once again. The hard to get Criterion disc is the best and includes a great commentary with Kaufman and Olin. The more recent MGM release also contained a good documentary on the fascinating history of the film but the print wasn't quite as good as the Criterion.
The beautiful soundtrack featuring the music of Leos Janacek is ironically still in print as is Kundera's wonderful original novel. Here are some rare lobby cards featuring Binoche that I scored off ebay years ago. Nearly 20 years after I saw this very special actress, Juliette Binoche remains for me the best in the world and THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is among my all time favorite films.