Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz
Director: Olivier Assayas
Running Time: 123 mins
Clouds Of Sils Maria is a French film about an ageing actress who agrees to play a part in the revival of the stage production that once launched her career. However, she finds trouble in coping with the rise of new stars into her world.
This is a seriously clever film, with an almost watertight screenplay that keeps you completely engrossed from start to finish and some mesmerising central performances. It is a bit harder to unlock than more mainstream movies, but it provides a hugely satisfying and intriguing discussion when it comes to the end.
Unlike most Hollywood takes on the state of show business and celebrities in the modern world, which is more often than not pretty depressing (take recent films like Birdman and Maps To The Stars), this European film has a much more elegant atmosphere to it whilst it delves into the world of this ageing actress struggling to keep her cool under a lot of pressure.
The film has some absolutely fascinating insights into the world of show business. It looks at jealousy and media pressure on older actresses, whilst also putting across an ironic, satirical poke at the pretentiousness that so many of us have been guilty of with regards to art. There’s a lot of talk in this film about reading into films perhaps more than they need to be, but also how more mainstream movies sometimes don’t get the deeper recognition they deserve from elitist viewers because of their reputation, which I found absolutely enthralling to watch unfold.
Also, there are some very clever parallels between the relationship between the two main characters, this actress (Juliette Binoche) and her personal assistant (Kristen Stewart), and the characters in the play that they are rehearsing for. It seemed to me that the parallels were pretty deliberate, given that it was almost impossible to tell whether the two were rehearsing or talking to each other for real during the practice scenes, which I thought was a brilliant little touch that really helped to emphasise the confusion and deeper trouble that the characters were facing in the story.
Beyond that, there’s so much more to think about in the plot, and I’m sure it requires multiple viewings to fully understand, but it’s still a hugely captivating drama first time off anyway, which is absolutely brilliant to see.
Away from the story, the performances here are pretty fantastic too. Juliette Binoche perfectly captures her character’s sense of confusion and loss as she goes through this time in her life, whilst also making her a recognisably snooty and diva-ish person that you can understand much clearer. Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart is excellent as the personal assistant, who tries hard to get to her employer, but often ends up feeling frustrated, and makes her character just as interesting, even if she is a side-player in the grand scheme of things.
Another point on the performances is that everyone, not only Binoche and Stewart, deliver their lines so brilliantly. It seems a pretty trivial thing to say, but in this film, I noticed what proper dialogue delivery sounds like so much more than anything else I’ve seen; every word was so clear and crisp, with fantastic emotion behind it, and that was just wonderfully impressive to witness for me.
Overall, I’ll give Clouds Of Sils Maria an 8.0, because it’s an absolutely enthralling drama with complex but intriguing themes and some stunning performances in the centre.