One of the more prominent actresses to emerge from the new young French cinema, Elsa Zylberstein has appeared in a diverse array of films since making her debut in 1988.
Born in Paris on October 16, 1969, Zylberstein grew up in one of the city's suburbs. She took an interest in dance at a young age, and she trained as a classical dancer for years. Her training led her to study the dramatic arts at a conservatory; after completing her studies, Zylberstein made her film debut in René Feret's Bapteme (1988). Three years later, she earned a fairly substantial role in Maurice Pialat's acclaimed Van Gogh, a historical drama about the famous painter.
But it was with director Martine Dugowson's Mina Tannenbaum (1994) that Zylberstein had her first true leading role. Starring alongside Romane Bohringer as one of two Jewish girls growing up as best friends in Paris, the actress earned strong notices for her performance. She again teamed with Dugowson and Bohringer for Portraits Chinoise in 1996, gracing the ensemble romantic satire with her portrayal of an insecure, self-pitying young Parisian. The following year, Zylberstein became more recognizable to an English-speaking audience with her role in Metroland, a British drama starring Christian Bale and Emily Watson. Cast as Bale's Bohemian lover, Zylberstein imbued the film with much of its erotic heat, defining her character with both unself-conscious sex appeal and intelligence.
For the most part, Zylberstein has remained most visible in French films, playing intelligent, complex women in dramas and screwball comedies alike. One of her more celebrated films of the late '90s was Raúl Ruiz's Le Temps retrouvé, a highly praised adaptation of Marcel Proust's legendary novel of the same name.