For Reel

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
June 9, 2015, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Olivier Assayas
4.5 Stars
Clouds of Sils MariaAbout a third of the way through Clouds of Sils Maria, an acclaimed actress (Juliette Binoche) and her personal assistant (Kristen Stewart) make their way to a secluded house in the Alps to start running through lines of a new adaptation of the play that made her famous. The setting and the situation remind one immediately of the works of Ingmar Bergman, with a pair of actresses butting heads and finding emotional truths in what amounts to a two-hander chamber play. Despite the familiarity (the play between truth and fiction is also reminiscent of recent arthouse films like Certified Copy and Venus in Fur), the dynamic between Binoche and Stewart feels new. Where Bergman’s genius was often inseparable from the artifice of his dialogue and framings, Olivier Assayas aspires for a certain naturalism with performances that are aggressively reactionary. Stewart has been given much acclaim for her contribution, but it’s not the type of performance that you’d expect given the buzz. She’s completely understated, with even her growing frustrations muted by her confident, interested demeanor. It is Binoche who brings a certain flamboyance in the range of her performance. She’s stubborn but deeply insecure, a woman aging but grappling with what it means to evolve.

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