Assayas’ witty, intelligent, charming and emotionally layered character drama Clouds of Sils Maria – his second collaboration with Juliette Binoche after the stupendous Summer Hours – is a delightful portrayal of femininity, mid-life crisis and the perils of stardom in the internet age. Interestingly, it’s also a deft meta commentary on cinema too, including life imitating art and role reversals. Two psychologically complex relationships, with one an enactment of a script and another deliciously mirroring that in real, formed the film’s central crux. Maria (Binoche), a middle-aged prima donna of both the stage and the screen, had earned her first international success through a play about a tempestuous relationship between Helena, a middle-aged businesswoman, and Sigrid, a brash young recruit who seduces and manipulates her vulnerable boss, where Maria had dazzled as the ingénue twenty years. Hence, when she’s offered the role of the older woman in a bold new reinterpretation of the play by a talented theatre director – Sigrid is now slated to be played by a cocky young Hollywood actress (Chloë Grace Moretz) who’s recently been through media scandal – it challenges and intimidates her both emotionally and artistically. However, despite significant misgivings and dilemmas, she’s reluctantly convinced by her young, striking, smart and perceptive American assistant and travel companion Valentine (Kristen Stewart) to take the role, and they retreat to the remote Alpine village of Sils Maria to prepare for it. While Binoche was outstanding, Stewart – in a cheeky subversion of her real-life Hollywood persona – was equally marvelous too, thus making the evolving dynamic between the two fascinating women, shaped in no small parts by their diverse and conflicting interpretations of the play, the film’s most delightful aspect.
Director: Olivier Assayas
Genre: Drama/Showbiz Drama