Juliette Binoche, No. 43 (Moulin Rouge), and Me

Juliette Binoche is one of my favorite actresses, and definitely my favorite French actress. I think the first film I saw her in was The Horseman on the Roof, which had something to do with European history and something to do with cholera. She was great as the nurse in The English Patient, whether scrambling a precious egg for her patient or dangling from a rope high inside a church’s dome, ecstatic at the beauty of the Renaissance frescoes that had survived war’s destruction.

In preparation for our trip to France, Joe and I decided to watch only French films, whatever we could get from Netflix, with English subtitles of course. Juliette Binoche starred in at least two of these, including the beautiful but enigmatic Certified Copy, in which a couple who may or may not have once been married go on a day-long drive through the Italian countryside. She is French, a gallery owner living in Italy with a young son. He is English, an art historian on a book and lecture tour. In one scene Binoche’s character goes into the ladies’ room at a restaurant and applies lipstick. We see this from the perspective of the mirror. The lipstick is an intense shade of red, and Binoche applies it generously, at one point smoothing it with her finger. I had forgotten that women do this. I wear lipstick, of course, but I tend to favor colors with names like Saint Nude and Nude Blush, colors that don’t need to be applied carefully because mistakes won’t show. Possibly it was the mirror’s eye view that made the lipstick scene the high point of the film for me. I made a point of watching the credits at the end and learned that Binoche’s makeup was from Make Up For Ever.

So Joe and I were walking down a shopping street in the Marais a few days ago, and we came upon a Make Up For Ever store. I just had to go inside. The nice sales clerk, who was fluent in English, didn’t know which color lipstick Juliette Binoche had worn in Certified Copy and hadn’t seen the film, but she suggested a couple of shades that fit my description, including Make Up For Ever’s classic red, No. 43 (Moulin Rouge). I asked her if she thought I could carry it off, and she said I could—well she had to say that, I guess—and I bought it.

We are on our way to Normandy and Brittany, planning to see the Bayeux Tapestry and Mont Saint-Michel and then possibly the Loire Valley before heading back to Paris. In Paris we will have a treat. We have tickets to see Juliette Binoche in Antigone at the Theatre de Ville. The play is in English with French surtitles; the script was written by Anne Carson, based on her translation from the ancient Greek. I’m sure I will enjoy Binoche’s performance regardless of her lip color. As for me, I will be wearing No. 43. When I started this trip, I said I wanted it to change my life. I think it already has.

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