Juliette Binoche

updated 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Maybe it's better to be French. We count calories and cut fat. Their most popular diet prescribes regular rations of foie gras, chocolate and red wine. We aerobicize, exfoliate, depilate. Their newest reigning screen beauty, Juliette Binoche, shrugs and says, "When you are in the dark, everybody looks the same."

Perhaps in Paris they do. What's beyond dispute, however, is that when the lights go on, the 30-year-old doe-eyed actress looks not the least bit like anybody else. Says Josephine Hart, author of Damage, who worked with Binoche on her starring role in the 1992 movie version of the steamy bestseller: "Juliette's beauty has a profoundly spiritual quality. The sculpted face and luminous skin are only half the story."

For Americans, the story begins in 1988, when Binoche made her English-speaking debut in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, playing the onscreen (and, reportedly, offscreen) lover of another cinematic eyeful, Daniel Day-Lewis. It was only when she started making movies at 18, Binoche says that she was "conscious of my outside." The daughter of parents who made their living in the theater, "there really weren't mirrors in my home," she says. "When I saw myself on the big screen, I saw my nose and all the expressions thrown in front of me. It was a shock." Binoche's idea of allure is not the sort that mirrors can capture anyway. She cites Marilyn Monroe as a beauty she admires, not, she points out, for "her body or face" but because "she was thirsty and she needed to drink, and that's what made her beautiful." As for les hommes, Binoche says, "for me to find a man attractive he has to be himself first. I don't like men who try to seduce. A man is more seductive when he's not looking for it."

She does, however, like deep-sea diver André Hallé, 30. The couple and their 8-month-old son Raphael live in Paris, where Binoche insists "if you saw me on the street you would not recognize me." Juliette Binoche, unrecognizable? C'est impossible!

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