Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

Almost a year after the film premiered at Cannes, today* Clouds of Sils Maria finally gets a limited release in the US. Over the last ten months the film has been gathering a number of accolades, including a César Award for best supporting actress for Kristen Stewart (Twilight, Still Alice).

The film stars Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Caché) who plays Maria Enders, an older actress who’s preparing for a theater role in the play that started her career years ago. Only this time, she’ll be playing the character of the older woman. Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, If I Stay) portrays Jo-Ann Ellis, a young actress who takes over the part Maria originated. Stewart plays Valentine, Maria’s personal assistant.

Olivier Assayas wrote and directed the film. The character of Maria Enders is based on and written for Juliette Binoche. The two worked together 30 years ago, when Assayas wrote Rendez-Vous, the film that started Binoche‘s career. The film embraces the identities of the actors, or at least  the way they are percieved by an audience.  It takes this meta dimension even one step further. Lines of the play in the movie are being rehearsed and the lines between the characters in the play and the characters on the screen get more and more blurred.

clouds-of-sils-maria-cannes-2014-2

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria

Stewart originally thought she was up for the role of Jo-Ann. Wild child. Hollywood studio actress. Troubled relation with the media. The irony of her being cast as Valentine is not shied away from. It enhances the story and serves as a form of social criticism. The film delves deep into the relation between Maria and Valentine, two independent women who play a game of push and pull.

This is not a Hollywood film by any means. The film was shot on location in Italy, Germany and Switzerland. It was written and directed by a French auteur, and most importantly, it stars three women. This is a type of film where the performances are crucial, and they sure deliver. Binoche might be the anchor of the film, both Moretz, and especially Stewart prove that they are more than capable. The subtle poetry, the breathtaking landscapes and the ambiguous ending will leave a lasting impact on the audience.

* [Date: 10/04/2015]

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