PARIS — French actress Amira Casar says she spends half her time in museums because she is such a sucker for beauty.

“We need to have higher ideals than pure consumerism,” she says over grapefruit juice at l’Hôtel on the Left Bank here. “What I am looking for is elevation. Elevation of the mind, visual elevation and revelation.”

To satisfy that quest, she makes more than the odd detour to fashion shows, having taken in Balenciaga already this week and probably Chanel on Friday for her friend Karl Lagerfeld who, besides having an “encyclopedic” culture, “can see right through people.”

But the British-born Casar isn’t likely to be defined by her clothes alone. At 34, she has acted in more than 30 films, including Christine Jeffs‘ “Sylvia,” Carlos Saura‘s “Bunuel y la mesa del rey Salomon” and movies by myriad French directors, including Anne Fontaine, the Larrieu brothers and Catherine Breillat.

While her role in Thomas Gilou‘s French comedy “Would I Lie to You?” launched her career in 1997, she’s never been categorized. She’s played lesbians, nurses and terrorists and she is always eagerly looking for new challenging roles.

Casar recently played the mysterious companion of a blind art historian in the Larrieu brothers’ latest success, “Peindre ou faire l’amour.” The film, selected at Cannes last May, is still looking for an American distributor, but 600,000 filmgoers have seen the movie since its late August release in France.

In the Quay brothers’ “The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes,” she portrays an opera singer whose memory is sucked out of her. The film is scheduled for a February release in the U.K.

“I like that feeling of plunging into work,” Casar says. “I’m not afraid of hurting, burning or suffering when I work.”

Good thing, because her next project with Tony Gatlif does not offer the convenience of a script. Titled “Transylvania,” Casar will portray a rockabilly character opposite Asia Argentino.

This story first appeared in the October 6, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

She’s looking forward to her six weeks of filming in Romania, though. “It’s going to be a life experience, in the cold, the snow. We sweat and suffer together. It’s like a small army. Except we won’t kill anyone. I hope!” she laughs.

Casar has her studious moments — she carries Nietzsche in her purse and underlines her favorite quotes — but she also loves humor.

“I’m dying to do a good comedy,” she says.

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