Clouds of Sils Maria

Olivier AssayasFrance / Germany / Switzerland124 minutes201414AColourEnglish

Aug 10
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Challenged by Juliette Binoche to write a "really great female role," Assayas produced this marvellously subtle and self-reflexive meditation on the intersection of life and art, which offered a showcase for not one but three great female performances. Binoche plays Maria Enders, a famed stage and screen actress who reluctantly agrees to appear in a revival of the play that made her a star three decades earlier — an intense psychodrama about a lesbian affair inspired by Fassbinder's Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant — in which she would now take on the role of the spurned older woman rather than the young temptress. Enders retreats to the Swiss Alps to prepare for the role in the company of her young personal assistant (Kristen Stewart), whose presence inadvertently brings Enders' insecurities about her age, her career and her very self to the fore. That anxiety and paranoia is only increased when she learns that she will be sharing the limelight with an ambitious, tabloid-fodder Hollywood starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) seeking artistic credibility on the stage. "Invigorating … Assayas is adept at making high-concept films seem like they emerged naturally and spontaneously from thin air" (Michael Koresky, Reverse Shot).