Catherine Breillat (born 13 July 1948) is a French filmmakernovelist and Professor of Auteur Cinema at the European Graduate School.

Life and career[edit]Edit

Breillat was born in BressuireDeux-Sèvres, but grew up in Niort. She decided to become a writer and director at the age of 12 after watching Ingmar Bergman's Gycklarnas afton, believing she had found her "'fictional body'" in Harriet Andersson's character, Anna.

She started her career after studying acting at Yves Furet "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, l'Homme facile, (Easy Man) published. 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.

Breillat is known for films focusing on sexuality,[1]] 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 tendency.

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 been in a handful of movies, making her film debut in 1972 as Mouchette in Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris.

Breillat suffered a stroke in 2004.

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. Soon after, she gave him25,000 to write a screenplay titled La vie amoreuse 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. 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. The book is titled Abus de faiblesse, a French legal term usually translated as "abuse of weakness". In 2012, Rocancourt was convicted of abuse de faiblesse for taking Breillat's money, and sentenced to prison. As of mid-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. However, somewhat ironically, a film adaptation of Abus de faiblesse, directed by Breillat and starring Isabelle Huppert, began production in 2012, and is expected to be released in 2013.

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


Year English title Original title Notes
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
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.
2009 Bluebeard Barbe bleue Based on the tale by Charles Perrault.
2010 The Sleeping Beauty La belle endormie Based on the tale by Charles Perrault.
2013 (projected) Abuse of Weakness Abus de faiblesse Based on her book. Stars Isabelle Huppert.

Stage plays[edit]Edit

  • Les Vêtements de mer


  • Abus de faiblesse
  • Pornocratie
  • Le Soupirail
  • L'homme facile
  • Tapage Nocturne

About Catherine Breillat

  • Anne-Elizabeth Blateau, « Une vieille maîtresse sans Breillat » (A Last Mistress without Breillat), in Carré d'Art by Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Anagramme, Paris, 2008 (pp. 143–149).
  • Douglas Keesey, Catherine BreillatManchester University Press, coll. « French film directors », 2009.
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