CANNES France Juliette Binoche confronts an issue every actress eventually faces in Olivier Assayas's "Clouds of Sils Maria" - what happens when the casting call you get is for the older woman and no longer the starlet?
Men, as Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenneger and Sylvester Stallone proved by bringing the roadshow to promote their "The Expendables 3" over-the-hill mercenaries franchise to Cannes last weekend, can continue to play the same action heroes into their 60s or even 70s.
But a woman can't play a starlet after a certain age, nor should she want to, Binoche, who reached global stardom in such films as "The English Patient" and "Chocolat" said at a post-screening news conference.
The film was the last of the 18 in competition for the top Palme d'Or prize to be screened before the main awards are announced on Saturday.
"Imagine if for 40 years you played the part of 20-year-old, you'd get very bored," Binoche said. "Of course you can't play the same parts all the time."
In the film, Binoche plays Maria Enders, an actress whose career resembles her own and who now is in her 40s.
Enders's first big success was playing an aggressive young woman who is employed by a middle-aged woman executive who runs a company. She seduces the older woman and destroys her.
Assayas's film shows Binoche's character being asked 20 years later to play the older woman, while an aggressive, media-savvy young American actress (Chloe Grace Moretz of the "Kickass" films) will take the role of the younger one.
Enders has a great deal of difficulty coping with doing the role of the older woman but as the film progresses she finally comes to term with it, and realizes she can bring to the part something no younger actress could.
"I think the more experience you have, the more you focus on the really important questions, you open up, you mature, you become more skilled, more honed," Binoche said.
"Think about (Canadian pianist) Glenn Gould, when he played Bach at the beginning and at the end of his career he didn't play Bach the same way.
"In other words, something happens inside yourself, within yourself. You're more aware of certain things because life shapes you. Fortunately we do change, we evolve."
FRENCH CINEMA IS "RAW"
Moretz said that unlike the character she portrays, who finds a way to humiliate Binoche's character even while smiling at her, she had relished the prospect of working with Binoche and Assayas, whose films she has admired for years.
"Obviously to work with Olivier, not on any project but specifically a French project with Juliette, would be so special," she said.
"I think there's something so much more innovative about French cinema than American because it's alive and there's something that is very raw about it that we can't capture in America yet."
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Ralph Boulton)