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Juliette Binoche goes back to her roots at Cannes with "Clouds of Sils Maria"

From left, actress Kristen Stewart, actress Juliette Binoche, actress Chloe Grace Moretz and actor Lars Eidinger pose for photographers following the screening of Sils Maria at the 67th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

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From left, actress Kristen Stewart, actress Juliette Binoche, actress Chloe Grace Moretz and actor Lars Eidinger pose for photographers following the screening of Sils Maria at the 67th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

CANNES, France - Juliette Binoche is going back to her roots — in more ways than one.

France's Oscar-winning leading lady hit Cannes this week, lighting up the Croisette for Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria" — back at the festival which first made her name nearly 30 years ago for the acclaimed "Rendez-Vous."

But this year's film, which co-stars a brilliant Kristen Stewart, also goes back to Binoche's more intimate past, weaving in and out of biographical element and blurring fact and fiction.

"It was a challenge to play," she says. "There are parallels."

Binoche plays Maria, a respected older actress asked to act again in a revival of a play that made her famous twenty years ago as an ingenue. This time around, however, she is no longer will play the young gamine. She's the desperate, struggling older woman.

The actress, after all, first played an ingenue in 1985's "Rendez-Vous," the dark examination of sexual desire written by Assayas himself all those years ago. The actress went on to be known for her melancholic, tragic characters such as the one she played in the 1996 "The English Patient" — an Oscar-winning performance.

"Yes, it has its root it in a reality that Olivier knew of me, the me 29 years ago — me as a young actress," she says.

It has the audience asking questioning: Where does Maria end and Binoche begin? Maria played Nina in Chekov's "The Seagull" and so did Binoche.

"It was like a wink to the audience," she says. The film, while ambitious and at times self-consciously intellectual, also pokes fun at itself.

Turning 50 this year, Binoche can take stock of had an acclaimed and varied career that has spanned 1993's "Three Colours: Blue" and 2000's "Chocolat."

"Time has passed and so it's good to reflect," says the still-radiant actress.

Binoche has kind words for another Cannes attendee, who has unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to her, Marion Cotillard — another dark French beauty.

"She's very talented. I think Marion has tremendous passion for work," she says, her eyes lighting up.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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