Catherine Breillat was born in Bressuire, a district in the center of France. She is an extremely accomplished and eclectic artist, well known as a director, a screenwriter, a novelist and an actress. Her works are particularly focused on the theme of sexuality and gender conflict, with a distinctive and brave personal slant inspired by her personal life experience. She was raised in Niort, in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, and at the age of 12 she openly expressed her desire to become a writer and a director, very likely inspired by the charm of Ingmar Bergman’s “Sawdust and Tinsel”. As a result, she studied acting at the drama school ‘De l’entretainment de l’acteur” in Paris with her sister Marie Helene, who is also a famous actress.
At the age of seventeen her first novel “L’homme Facile” was published and soon proved to be a great success. In 1972 she interpreted the role of Mouchette in the famous “Last Tango in Paris” by Bertolucci, and in 1976 she acted in “Dracula father and son” by Edouard Molinero.
In 1976 she directed her first work as director, “Une vraie jeune fille”, based on the novel “Le soupirail”, published the previous year by Catherine Breillat herself, and then “Tapage Nocturne“ in 1979. Due to its explicit sexual content and the many sensual scenes “Une vraie jeune fille” was censored and shown only twenty-three years later. She then decided to become a full time screenwriter for film directors such as Liliana Cavani (The Skin, 1981), Federico Fellini (And the ship sails on, 1983) and Maurice Pialat (Police, 1985).
She directed many other films, whose common trait is always the erotic and sexual theme acting as a linking thread, such as ”36 fillette” (1988) and “Sale come un Ange” (1991), “Parfait Amour!” (1996), “Romance” (1999), ”A ma soeur” (2001, presented at the official selection in Berlin), ”Beve traverse” (2001, presented in Venice), ”Sex is comedy” (2002, which was shown at the opening of the Quinzaine des Realisateures in Cannes) and “Anatomy of Hell” (2003), this latter featuring Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi who had already acted in Romance. Hers are also “Une vieille Maitresse“ (2006), based on a novel by Jules Barbey D’Aurevilly and presented at the 60th Cannes Film Festival and “Barbe Bleue” (2009). In 2010 she participated to the Venice Film Festival by presenting her version of “Sleeping Beauty” during the opening of the “New Horizons” section, a movie which was inspired by Charles Perrault’s tales. This was not her first appearance at the Venice Festival as in 2002 she was a member of the Jury of the Controcorrente competition (S. Marco Award) and in 2007 she was part of the international jury of the main competition (presided by Zhang Yimou). Her latest movie is “Abus de feblesse” (2013), interpreted by Isabelle Huppert and inspired by a real experience of fraud whose victim had been Catherine Breillat herself. This work once again highlights her authority and ability as a director.
As of 2014 she has been a member of the French order of Arts and Letters. She has also held several masterclasses at the Wellesley College in Boston, at the FEMIS (Fondation Européenne des Métiers de l’Image et du Son) and at the Columbia University in New York.