Monday, April 27, 2015

Clouds Of Sils Maria 2015

   Anchored by two tremendous performances by Juliette  Binoche as Maria Enders an aging but still beautiful world renowned actress of stage and screen and Kristin Stewart as her harried but very capable assistant Valentine who when the film opens are on a speeding train on their way to Switzerland.  Binoche is to accept a lifetime achievement award for her mentor and friend a famous but reclusive playwright who we never meet or see as he dies suddenly and this unexpected death pushes the story forward if not at lighting speed then certainly at a compelling speed. Binoche made her mark in one of  Wilhelm Melchior’s plays “Maloja Snake” in which she played the young assistant to a middle age Lesbian corporate big shot who the young woman taunts and tangles up in a romantic knot until she is driven to suicide.
                 Soon after arriving in Zurich Binoche is presented with the opportunity to star in a revival of the play by a hot shot young international director who wants her to take on the role of the Middle age lesbian. She hesitates and there is a lot of soul searching and back and forths between her and Stewart on why and why not she should do the role. She finally agrees to do it, chops off her lustrous locks for a butch haircut and her and Stewart hole up at the remote but comfortable home in the alps of Wilhelm’s where they are put up by his widow played by the great Angela Winkler in a too short for me performance.
                 It’s here that art, nature, angst and sexual identity come together in not always calm ways as Binoche and Stewart rehearse the play and at times their play acting merges into their actual real time relationship and as they merge its hard to tell what is the play and what is real. Soon we met the young actress who is going to take on the young assistants role that Binoche originated and its a young hot scandal ridden American actress played with tough annoyance by Chloe grace moretz who throws up Lindsay Lohan all over the place. The scene where Binoche and Stewart watch a tacky but slick 3-D sci-fi epic in a St. Moritz movie theatre starring Moretz is priceless and unabashedly          pokes fun at Stewart’s own blockbuster career.  Long (the film is a little over 2 hours) and laid back this is a peeling the layers of an onion movie that is compelling and surprising with every scene.
           It is also a beautiful film with its scenes of the alps along with it’s many color drenched nighttime moments.  There are intrusions and illusions throughout with comments about our celebrity driven culture and Internet driven lives that the characters and us both loathe and love.  Directed by the difficult to pin down  Olivier Assayas with influences from “All About Eve” Bergman and a touch of Antonioni (there is an unexplained disappearance) but still a film all his own. Definitely not for the Fast and Furious crowd.                                                                                                                                    


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