Directed By: André Téchiné
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Juliette Binoche, Wadeck Stanczak
Trivia: Juliette Binoche was paid minimum wage, the same rate as the extras
At the very heart of André Téchiné’s Rendez-Vous is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Aside from the fact it's performed in several venues throughout the film (one of which is a live sex show), there’s a spirit of romantic tragedy, much like the play itself, that runs like an undercurrent through the entire movie. Yet it goes deeper still, revealing an ever-shrinking line between fantasy and reality. For these characters, life as it is in Romeo and Juliet feels more genuine than anything they experience on a daily basis. When love abandons their world, there's still plenty to be found on the stage.
Timid real estate agent Paulot (Wadeck Stanczak) has fallen in love with a beautiful client named Nina (Juliette Binoche). An aspiring actress who’s only just moved to Paris, Nina is, in turn, infatuated with Quentin (Lambert Wilson), Paulot’s selfish, egotistical roommate. Quentin, a performer in live sex shows, begins a torrid affair with Nina. When it ends tragically, Nina falls into despair, and is saved only by a local stage production of Romeo and Juliet, for which she’s offered the coveted lead role.
Juliette Binoche gives her all as Nina, the confused actress whose real life doesn’t live up to the one she experiences when on stage. Nina is sexually promiscuous, and admits to having had many affairs (“The nights I’ve slept alone since coming to Paris”, she tells Paulot, “I can count on the fingers of one hand”). She rebukes Paulot, a shy, sincere individual, while at the same time capitulating to the abrasive Quentin. We, like Paulot, know the relationship will end badly, yet tragedy is what Nina is drawn to, making her a natural for the part of Juliet. As an actress, it's the ultimate role, but for Nina, it’s much more. Juliet represents an escape from her own pitiful life, a welcome change from the actual tragedy that is her constant companion. Ultimately, Nina finds she is Juliet, and feels the character breathing inside her.
At one point, Paulot asks Nina why she came to Paris. “To live my life”, is her response. Yet throughout Rendez-Vous, we realize self-destruction is her true companion. Her salvation is the theater. Unable to grasp love, Nina embodies the role of the theater’s greatest lover with the very depth of her being. The stage has the power to redeem her, and she has ceased to be Nina. She is now, and forever, Juliet
…and she finds her new “life” very appealing.