Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat
Born (1948-07-13) 13 July 1948
Bressuire, Deux-Sèvres, France
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, novelist

Catherine Breillat (French: [bʁɛja]; born 13 July 1948) is a French filmmaker, novelist and Professor of Auteur Cinema at the European Graduate School.[1] She has often courted controversy with her films' frank treatment of sexual themes. For example, her 1976 debut film, A Real Young Girl, was not released in theaters until 2000.

Life and career

Breillat was born in Bressuire, Deux-Sèvres, but grew up in Niort. She decided to become a writer and director at the age of twelve after watching Ingmar Bergman's Gycklarnas afton, believing she had found her "fictional body" in Harriet Andersson's character, Anna.[2]

She started her career after studying acting at Yves Furet's "Studio d'Entraînement de l'Acteur" in Paris together with her sister, actress Marie-Hélène Breillat (born 2 June 1947) in 1967. At the age of 17, she had her novel published, l'Homme facile (Easy Man). The French government banned it for readers under 18 years old. A film based on the novel was made shortly after the publication of the book, but the producer went bankrupt and the distributor Artedis blocked any commercial release of the film for twenty years although it had been given an R rating.[3]

Breillat is known for films focusing on sexuality,[4] intimacy, gender conflict, and sibling rivalry. Breillat has been the subject of controversy for her explicit depictions of sexuality and violence. She cast the pornstar Rocco Siffredi in her films Romance (Romance X, 1999) and Anatomie de l’enfer (Anatomy of Hell, 2004). Her novels have been best-sellers.

Her work has been associated with the cinéma du corps/cinema of the body genre.[5] In an interview with Senses of Cinema, she described David Cronenberg as another filmmaker she considers to have a similar approach to sexuality in film.

Though Breillat spends most of her time behind the camera, she has acted in a handful of movies. She made her film debut in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972) as Mouchette, a dressmaker, alongside her sister Marie-Hélène Breillat.

In 2004, Breillat suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, causing a stroke that paralyzed her left side.[6] After five months of hospitalization and a slow rehabilitation, she gradually returned to work, producing Une vieille maîtresse (The Last Mistress) in 2007. This film was one of three French films officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival of that year.

In 2007, Breillat met notorious conman Christophe Rocancourt, and offered him a leading role in a movie that she was planning to make, based on her own novel Bad Love, and starring Naomi Campbell.[7] Soon after, she gave him 25,000 to write a screenplay titled La vie amoureuse de Christophe Rocancourt (The Love Life of Christophe Rocancourt), and over the next year and a half, would give him loans totalling an additional €678,000.[8] In 2009, a book written by Breillat was published, in which she alleged that Rocancourt had taken advantage of her diminished mental capacity, as she was still recovering from her stroke.[9] The book is titled Abus de faiblesse, a French legal term usually translated as "abuse of weakness".[10] In 2012, Rocancourt was convicted of abus de faiblesse for taking Breillat's money, and sentenced to prison.[8]

In September 2010, Breillat's second fairy-tale based film, La belle endormie (Sleeping Beauty), opened in the Orizzonti sidebar in the 67th Venice Film Festival.[11]

As of 2011, although Breillat had moved on to other projects, she still hoped to film Bad Love, but had not yet been able to find financing to do so.[12] However somewhat ironically, a film adaptation of her book Abus de faiblesse, directed by Breillat and starring Isabelle Huppert, began production in 2012, and was screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[13][14]

It has been noted that "Breillat remains committed to the long take, articularly during scenes of sexual negotiation, a technique that showcases her performers' virtuosity as well as emphasizes the political and philosophical elements of sex. In both Fat Girl and Romance, for example, key sex scenes possess shots lasting over seven minutes."[15]


Year English title Original title Notes
1975 Catherine & Co. Catherine et Compagnie Writer.
1976 A Real Young Girl Une Vraie Jeune Fille Based on Breillat's novel Le Soupirail. Banned after initial premiere, until 1999.
1979 Nocturnal Uproar Tapage nocturne
1987 Milan noir Writer.
1988 Virgin / Junior Size 36 36 Fillette Based on her novel.
1991 Dirty Like an Angel Sale comme un ange
1993 Couples et amants Couples et amants Co-Writer.
1996 Perfect Love Parfait amour!
1999 Romance Romance X
2001 Fat Girl À ma sœur!
2001 Brief Crossing Brève traversée
2002 Sex Is Comedy Sex Is Comedy
2004 Anatomy of Hell Anatomie de l’enfer Based on her novel Pornocratie.
2007 The Last Mistress (aka An Old Mistress) Une vieille maîtresse Based on the novel by Jules Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly (1851). Entered into the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.[16]
2009 Bluebeard Barbe bleue Based on the tale by Charles Perrault.
2010 Sleeping Beauty La belle endormie Based on Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault.
2013 Abuse of Weakness Abus de faiblesse Based on her book of the same title.

Stage plays


About Catherine Breillat


  1. See: Catherine Breillat Faculty Page at European Graduate School. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  2. "CATHERINE BREILLAT on INTIMACY -". YouTube. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  3. "Breillat veut racheter son film. Pierre-Richard Muller d'Artédis en possède les droits. Une vraie jeune fille (1976) de Catherine Breillat, avec Charlotte Alexandra, Hiram Keller, Bruno Balp, Rita Meiden, Georges Gueret (musique de Mort Shuman sur des paroles de Catherine Breillat); 1h30. - Libération". 1999-04-28. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  4. Emma Wilson, "Deforming femininity: Catherine Breillat's Romance" France on Film: Reflections on Popular French Cinema ed. Lucy Mazdon. London: Wallflower (2001): 146. Romance "is part of a larger and sustained project in Breillat's art to consider, challenge and reinvent female sexuality."
  5. Palmer, Tim, Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, Wesleyan University Press, 2011.
  6. "Quand Christophe Rocancourt et Catherine Breillat se dechirent" Le Parisien; Thursday July 9, 2009, p. 13
  7. Secher, Benjamin (5 April 2008). "Catherine Breillat: 'All true artists are hated'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  8. 1 2 de Mallevoüe, Delphine (18 February 2012). "Christophe Raconcourt sort de prison et prépare un livre". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  9. Groves, Don (9 August 2010). "Breillat's new twist on Sleeping Beauty". SBS. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  10. Roxo, Alexandra (7 July 2011). "A Conversation with Catherine Breillat (THE SLEEPING BEAUTY)". Hammer to Nail. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  11. Lyman, Eric J., "'La Belle endormie' to premiere at Venice fest", "The Hollywood Reporter", 19 July 2010 Access date: Thursday August 19, 2010.
  12. Kohn, Eric (6 July 2011). "'Sleeping Beauty' Director Catherine Breillat: 'To Be An Artist is To Be Alone.'". Indiewire. SnagFilms. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  13. Keslassy, Elsa (12 January 2012). "Breillat to helm 'Abus de faiblesse'". Variety. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  14. Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia (12 December 2012). "Isabelle Huppert Hopes to Work With More Asian Film Directors". ARTINFO. Louise Blouin Media. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  15. Conway, Kelley. Sexually Explicit French Cinema: Genre, Gender, and Sex. In Moine, Raphaëlle; Fox, Alistair; Marie, Michel; Radner, Hilary, eds. (27 January 2015). A Companion to Contemporary French Cinema. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, pp. 461–480. ISBN 9781444338997. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  16. "Festival de Cannes: The Last Mistress". Archived from the original on 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2009-12-20.

External links

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