Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas – 2014) A

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart deliver really excellent performances in this beautiful film. They play Maria Enders, a very popular actress, and her assistant Valentine respectively. They are heading to a Swiss town so that Maria can accept an award by her old mentor, a well-respected theater director called Wilhelm. Unfortunately the old guy commits suicide before they arrive because he was terminally ill. Maria is obviously heart-broken when she is approached by another director who wants to remake a play she starred in 20 years ago when she was 18 that was written by Wilhelm. The play, called The Maloja Snake, revolves around the relationship between two women, the older Helena and the much younger Sigrid. Now, though, she needs to play the flip side of the role, the older woman in that play.

Most of the film takes place in the beautiful Swiss hometown of Wilhelm as Maria rehearses her lines with Valentine, discusses Hollywood, acting, aging, having second thoughts about playing the older person in the play against the wild and young Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz)…Valentine might be the assistant but she also seems more than that. She is Maria’s confidant, her sounding board and is surprisingly honest and terse a lot of the time. We begin to realize that the play themes are maybe a little too close to home when we compare them to the real-life relationship between Maria and Valentine.

The film is deliberate with really interesting conversations and a lot of subtext. Assayas’ really makes use of the amazing location and we got awesome scenes between the two actresses in and around Sils-Maria. The film has an epilogue in London but really the climax is the last scene with them two as they hike to see the famous “snake” of clouds that give the play its name. Assayas and Binoche seem to work great together and I am looking forward to checking out their earlier collaboration.

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