The actress tells us about her career and her role in ''The Double Life of Veronique''

No film season is complete without a memorable French ingenue, and this winter’s is delicately beautiful Irene Jacob, 25. In The Double Life of Veronique, a haunting psychological drama, Jacob plays two women whose lives are linked by mysteriously parallel events. Her performance wowed the jury at Cannes, beating out former ingenue Isabelle Huppert for Best Actress, and American critics are equally smitten, raving about her luminous, soulful, sexy presence. ”It’s not like I had been working for 30 years or something,” Jacob says, with naif modesty. ”It was a big chance for me, this part.”

Born in Paris and raised in Geneva, the daughter of a French physicist, Jacob is single and lives in a suburb north of Paris. American audiences saw her as a piano teacher in Louis Malle’s Au Revoir, les Enfants (1987), and can catch her again in Claude, a romantic comedy in English slated for 1992. But don’t look for her to move to L.A. soon. ”Hollywood is so big,” she says. ”Not a place to do something fragile, creative, and risky.”