Breillat is known for films focusing on sexuality, 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 New French Extremity 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.
In 2004, Breillat suffered a stroke.
A friend of hers, Christophe Rocancourt, a con artist, was to play a role in the upcoming film "Bad Love". However, in 2009 she accused him of taking advantage of her handicap by embezzling €650,000. Breillat documented the incident in her book, published in 2009, called "Abus de faiblesse" (Abuse of Weakness).
As of 2010, Breillat is almost fully recovered from her stroke and still intends to film Bad Love with Naomi Campbell in a lead role. Departing from her native French, Breillat plans for the dialogue in the movie to be in both English and Chinese. In September 2010, Breillat's second fairy-tale based film, Sleeping Beauty (La belle endormie), will open in the Orizzonti sidebar in the 67th Venice Film Festival.
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