Clouds of Sils Maria

The Criterion Collection
Clouds of Sils Maria is the 2014 psychological drama film that dramatically reflects on fact, fiction, the commercialism of artistry by writer/director Olivier Assayas. Kristen Stewart co-stars as the personal assistant of Juliette Binoche, a terrifyingly focused actress, who is watching her legacy become usurped by the next generation of thespians: played by Chloë Grace Moretz.

A vintage taste. This movie has been very under-viewed. Assayas, who has enjoyed a prolific career in France, displays his affinity for absorbing and interpreting past masters (drawing equal inspiration from the French and Taiwanese New Wave). This film contains no frames that fail to serve the plot or character in some way or another and watching it is satisfying but is very slow work. Principal photography of Clouds of Sils Maria was shot on location in the titular village of Sils Maria, Switzerland as well as Zürich; Leipzig, Germany; and South Tyrol, Italy.

Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria

Actors act. Clouds is another movie about actors struggling with their roles in life and on-screen. Nobody displays the difference between a character and a character in character like Binoche, who piles layer upon layer on her performance and still keeps things understated. Stewart's performance shows a great deal of tension underneath her static façade. And Moretz seems to understand her own generation as well as the best future psych-historians who will look back on us — she satirizes herself without settling for mere parody.

Pretension or irony? It's difficult to tell if this movie is stuffy, or if the film is about stuffy people. Binoche’s character is the epitome of a suffering artist. Stewart's character serves as is a kind of foil — a laid-back modern young adult of the Apathy Era, who nevertheless gets along with Binoche swimmingly. If the film is trying to separate itself from its high-strung first-world-problem protagonists, it does so imperfectly.

Ideal for viewers who have a passion for the arts and are wide awake.

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