Superior character study, open to many interpretations (by bandw)
This movie focuses on the relationship between two women, one a famous actress approaching middle age and the other her young personal assistant. The story plays out on three levels. First there is the relationship between Maria, the famous actress, and Valentine, Maria's young personal assistant. Second there are the women in a play that Maria is rehearsing, with Val reading one of the parts. Thirdly there is the relationship between the real life actors, Juliette Binoche as Maria and Kristen Stewart as Valentine. The generation gap between Maria and Val is a major theme. Maria almost <more>
takes pride in her disregard for the world that Val knows. On many occasions Val will mention a name of some famous actress or writer and Maria will admit to never having heard of them. At first it seems that Val is able to handle this with some humor, but it comes to be more and more of a frustration for her and she finds it hard not to take Maria's disdain for the younger culture as a personal insult. This hit home for me in that I had not known of Stewart before having seen her here; I have come to understand that she is famous in her own right.The relationship between the women in the play mimics that between Maria and Val to the point that it is sometimes hard to determine if, in rehearsing the play, it is the women in the play conversing, or actually Maria and Val. Not to be ignored is that Binoche and Stewart themselves fit the circumstances of Maria and Val. Trying to figure out what's going on between Maria and Val was what kept my interest. At some points I thought that Maria might be developing a strong attachment to Val, even perhaps sexual. There are several scenes that imply this. For example when Val takes off from the house that the two women are sharing Maria quickly runs upstairs to watch the car as Val drives off. At another point Maria looks in with intensity to a scantily clad Val as she sleeps. Toward the end when Val tells Maria that things are not working for her, Maria tells Val not to leave, and when Val says she will, Maria says, "Please stay. I need you" and then goes over to hug Val.Val's feelings for Maria are even more ambiguous. She clearly admires Maria, but there is more there. When Maria is on stage to give a talk Val is in the wings smiling and saying, "Go get 'em Tiger." There is a scene that has a scantily clad Val swimming with a naked Maria. The two are having more fun than I would expect an actor and her assistant to have. When Maria hugs Val after pleading with her to stay, Val responds but then backs off in a confused emotional state. There are hints that Val may have lesbian tendencies. When Val says she is going to meet a male friend Maria asks, "Are you involved with him? I mean, is this a thing now? I'm thrilled that you have a boyfriend, there haven't been that many. And when there is one, you burn through him pretty fast." It would be unusual for a woman as attractive as Val not to have many boyfriends. Then there is the mysterious scene where Val is driving on curvy roads in the mountains in a fog and then stops, gets out of the car, and vomits. Is she sick from the curvy roads, or is she having an emotional breakdown, realizing that things are not all that well between her and Maria?And what is to be made of the sexual elements of the two women in the play that Maria is rehearsing as it might imply something between Val and Maria? Trying to figure out the complex relationship between Val and Maria is confounding. I guess it is what it is and it's a mistake to over-analyze it, but the ambiguities enticed me to figure it out.As you would expect, Juliette Binoche stands out in this role. I admire her for taking it on, since the portrait of Maria is not completely flattering and the parallels to Binoche's own life are clear. Appearing without makeup on occasion, as she does, strikes me as the mark of a confident actress. Binoche is also up against a young actress who more than holds her own. In fact I was quite taken with Stewart's performance.There is occasional humorous relief. Val reads some of the offers that Maria is getting, noting that "there's a Spanish horror flick, it's pretty gory, you'd be playing a Mother Superior. There are werewolves involved for whatever reason." There is a magazine offer to do a story on successful aging that gets a resounding "no" from Maria--this is a sensitive issue for her, in commenting on a line that one of the characters has in the play she is rehearsing she says, "Time's gone by and she can't accept it. Me neither, I guess." After meeting with a future co-star and her boyfriend Maria remarks on how she liked them and how nice they were. Val comments that of course Maria would like them, since they spent the whole evening flattering her.In spite of Maria's ambivalence about technology it's interesting to see what a role that plays in her life, from essential cell phones, to tablet computers, skype, google, GPS, etc.The significance of the title "Clouds of Sils Maria" is up for debate, but it is an unfortunate, uninviting title. When I have recommended this movie to friends none has been able to remember the title without asking me again. A title like "A Generation Gap" would have encouraged more people to see this well-acted examination of ambiguities in human relationships.
"Clouds of Sils Maria", the latest work from auteur director Olivier Assayas, is one of those films that leaves a deep impression. It's warm and intimate in ways movies simply aren't anymore, and the characters in it are the same way. Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart - who play the ones we so closely get to know - are simply wonderful together, possibly being the most interesting duo you'll see on screen all year. These people aren't afraid to be vulnerable, or show their idiosyncrasies, and that's precisely what makes them so human and comforting. It's a <more>
movie that I got lost in in a good way and gravitated towards immediately. Binoche plays one of the most renowned actresses in Hollywood, having starred in a seminal play and film based on the same material that made her career twenty years earlier, but is now confronted with starring in a new stage production of that same play. She's hesitant, but excepts the challenge, and the film centers around her struggle to deal with the difficult script that she hasn't visited in so long, and her looming age over everything she does. That, along with the fascinating relationship she has with her assistant Stewart , which quickly becomes the focus. Both of these women are charming beyond belief, spending the good majority of their screen-time together, and their constant rapport is one of the main reasons why I liked the film so much. Of course, you have breathtaking cinematography and a really distinct directing style from Assayas, but these characters are unmatched. We don't simply get acquainted with them, we know them. It's an immediate thing from the first few scenes alone. Each moment flows so beautifully to the next, and the precision is something to marvel at. That, in a nutshell, is why I found it to be so brilliant.
Beautiful, multi-layered film ***Contains Spoilers (by Love_Life_Laughter)
When we first meet Maria Enders, played by Juliet Binoche, she is draped in furs and surrounded by the other accoutrements of success and fame as a respected actress, including Val, a subservient and admiring administrative assistant. As we watch, she is stripped of her trappings of success and power, step by step. As we meet her, she is divorcing her husband and is losing her apartment in Paris. Somehow, in a complex ensnarement involving Val, another young new, ruthless ingenue and just as self-involved director, Maria ends up as an afterthought, dismissed after the 3rd act, in a play that <more>
years before had established her fame. Maria is so far gone, by the end of the film, that when a true admirer approaches her, she recommends the new ingenue who replaced her in her old role for the part- Maria now sees herself as "too old." In the film's touching denouement, her admirer rejects the "tabloid fame seeking" ingenue. He sees Maria, for whom he wrote the new film part, as "beyond time." Thus, Maria's art survives her so-called compromised aging beauty, and she is validated at the most basic level as the artist she is. Binoche plays Maria with a look of angry confusion, almost childish petulance, at her unexpected, seemingly uncontrollable fall from grace. Underlying this seeming helplessness, however, you can see in her an honesty, a vulnerability, and a focus on acting as an act of integrity that makes her stand out among the other characters, whose motives may not be transparent, but are clearly not based in any higher ideals related to art or in being in the service of art. It is easy to understand why Maria is or was such a huge star, and also, how in her relatively innocent focus on the value of art for it's own sake, she could fall into the trap of losing her own sense of her own value by the manipulative, ego-driven, social-media twisting characters around her. Val, played by Kristen Stewart, ensnares Maria like a spider playing with a fly. Their chemistry is palpable. Stewart won the equivalent of the French Oscar for this film, and it is well-deserved. This film, with all of the subtle nuances, is not for everyone. I love the rare films, like this one, that treat the audience as thinking adults, capable of understanding multi-faceted, complex relationships and character.
Portrait of a woman confronting the demons of age and obsolescence. (by Mamabadger56)
This was an amazing movie, to a large extent because of its lead actors. I expected Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart to make a great team, and they did; there was never a moment when I thought one of them was out-acting the other, or drawing attention from the other. They worked in perfect tandem as far as I could see. The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the technique of telling the story in "layers." Many, if not all, scenes are on multiple levels, filled with subtext, and it all mixes effortlessly with the central story. Binoche plays famous and respected actress <more>
Maria Enders, while Kristen plays her devoted personal assistant, Valentine. Enders is preparing to play an important role: the character of Helena, an older woman in a remake of the play in which she once starred brilliantly as the more powerful younger character, Sigrid. Valentine is helping her rehearse, and they both travel to the picturesque mountain town of Sils Maria to work on the play. That's the main "layer" and it makes a perfectly good story on its own. But in this movie, any piece of dialogue can, at the same time, refer to the characters in Enders' play; to Enders and Valentine themselves; to Binoche and Stewart; or to other actors, movies, directors, or events which are not directly mentioned in the film. Yes, even the real life actors are referenced; Olivier Assayas confirmed in an interview that in this movie, the identity of the actual actors is part of the story. It sounds as if it should be weird and confusing, but it's not; it's done very smoothly, with the main story easy to follow even while taking in the other layers of reference as if they were background music. The basic story, which is beautifully told, is about a woman struggling to deal with ageing in a profession that doesn't always respect older women, that may consider them irrelevant. Maria Enders is also trying to be true to her art while making the necessary concessions to fame, the media, the fans, fellow actors, and critics, concessions she resents to some extent. It would be a fine story all by itself. But the added layers provide a sort of ongoing commentary on the story, that makes it much more interesting, and a little strange. Seeing obvious parallels with the lead actors' real lives is odd, but like the parallels between Maria Enders and the character she is preparing to play, it only adds depth to the story and gives us more insight into what is happening.Maria's struggle is made worse when she meets the young, brash, gossip-ridden Hollywood actress, Joanne Ellis Chloe Grace Moretz , who is to take on the role of Sigrid. Joanne is smart, fearless, and media-savvy. At their first meeting she flatters Maria and claims to be an admirer, but may simply be feigning respect. Maria is easy to sympathize with when she looks into Joanne's background and sees that the rising star displacing her is a crude, grandstanding girl who manipulates the system to her advantage, and who acts in ridiculous sci-fi drivel. Gradually, the difficult relationship between the characters in Enders' play becomes blurred and overlapped with Enders' relationship with Valentine, each relationship providing commentary on the other. It is interesting to watch Binoche simultaneously rehearsing a scene in which her character, Helena, has a confrontation with Sigrid, and in subtext confronting Valentine. It gradually becomes unclear whether she is Helena addressing Sigrid, or Maria addressing Valentine, because it becomes both at once. Maria's conflicts over becoming obsolete in the field where she's excelled, and by extension possibly in her life, causes ongoing friction with Valentine, who tries to help her and encourage her to change her perspective. Finally, in a brief surreal moment, Maria, it is implied, manages to take on Valentine's perspective and her confidence. As Valentine tries to express at one point, Helena and Sigrid are really the same character; by extension, so are Maria and the young, pragmatic, fearless Valentine. Ultimately these opposites are reconciled, the conflicting layers are brought together, and Maria is able to accept her new reality and move on. It's not necessarily a happy ending, in terms of Maria's diminishing professional range, but it is a satisfying one.This is an enjoyable, well written and well acted, serious and yet consistently entertaining movie from beginning to end.
Strong, provocative, intelligent work of art not for everyone (by petrelet)
If you are a big fan of Magritte and Escher, of the writer Sebald, of Pirandello and Philip Glass and maybe the film "Koyaanisqatsi", I predict that you will love this film. If, on the other hand, you can't see the point of any of these and believe only in Aristotle's six elements of drama, there are many other excellent films you will like much better. It's a matter of taste.In this film, writer/director Assayas deliberately blurs the distinctions between a number of levels. You start with people in the business of theatre and film: Marie Enders Binoche , an <more>
experienced and celebrated actress, and Valentine Stewart , her young, busy, competent personal assistant, and the people in Marie's past, living and dead. Then there is the level of the characters in the play "The Maloja Snake" of twenty years ago, when Marie played the young and cruel Sigrid who loved and crushed her middle-aged employer, Helena. There is the level of the characters of the same play today, in which director Klaus Diesterweg Lars Eidinger hopes to recruit Marie to play Helena, possibly with a different take on the characters' motives and psychology, and in which Jo-Ann Ellis Moritz is eventually cast as Sigrid. And there is also the level of the real human world, including events in the life of the real Kristen Stewart, which have striking parallels in the life of the fictional Ellis; the same seems to be true of Binoche and Enders, and I have read that "The Maloja Snake" is a parallel world version of Fassbinder's "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant". Spanning all these levels are the the real Switzerland and its real mountains and clouds, including the real Maloja Snake, a cloud phenomenon which was the subject of a black-and-white short film in the 1920's which is excerpted in Assayas' film and which can be seen on YouTube. The Internet spans all these levels too, and all the characters in the film are busy with texting and Skyping and Googling and checking out and fixing their IMDb info. And then the work of playing characters, of determining and managing emotions, of arguing about what really motivates real or fictional or play-within-a-play fictional characters, either within the industry of the creative arts or not, also bridges the levels. We are constantly aware of the analogies and reflections among Valentine - Maria, Sigrid - Helena, Jo-Ann - Maria, and so on. Readings of lines take place, in which you sometimes wonder what level you are on, and we see a lot of the details of the creative discussions which must go into the production of plays or for that matter, not incidentally, movies such as "Clouds of Sils Maria". If you get lazy and suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to mentally presume that "Clouds" is a comprehensible narrative of the real world, Assayas will bring you up short without any ceremony.So, does that kind of thing strike you as artistically intriguing or intellectually exciting? If it does, see the movie. It will give you a lot to think about and appreciate and puzzle about and discuss afterward. The Swiss tourist board will thank you also. If it seems a bit dry and abstract, well, you are fairly warned.
First of all I have to admit that Olivier Assayas is one of my three favourite directors. All his films are like novels that are different to every other film. And once more this movie shows what a great director he really is. Juliette Binoche in her best role. Kristen becoming one of the most important actresses of the world... Definitely a must-see for art-house fans. A film about directing, theater, film business and art. Two things are a little bit, well, not so nice. The first thing: they have chosen the worst German art-house actors: Lars Eidinger is really fantastic in Hamlet and <more>
theatre, but not a great actor for movies. Olivier should have known that but who else should he have taken.......... :- German actors aren't able to prepare for filming by their own. That is because there isn't a real German cinema existing....The other thing: Oliver is becoming old. And that - for me - means accepting old classic rules like: the creative people are men. And girls are always willing and happy to do what great men want them to do. Well... Is that true? I am not so sure about that. Maybe.... ??? But: all the directors in this film 3! are men, all the writers 2 are men, all the real creative people... Well... mh... Nevertheless a great movie.
Juliette Binoche: A career in acting... (by georges-nahas)
I was very glad that i attended the opening ceremony of the Beirut International Film Festival with the presence of Juliette Binoche screening this touching movie! We're talking here about a festival movie so if you're not ready for a lot of talking scenes, well this is not for you! The story itself is brought by Binoche to director Olivier Assayas about an actress at the peak of her career who is asked again to play a role in a play that made her famous years ago! Let's be clear: this movie is all about stunning performances by a great Trio of actresses Binoche, Stewart and <more>
Moretz! Everyone was so great performing the characters. Binoche made it clear that this movie talk about her career and how can it be disturbed or touched emotionally on every level when she'll reach a certain age and when new generations of actors will rise! A must see for cinema lovers and especially for professional actors!
The female version of Birdman (by estebangonzalez10)
"In the play you all know, Maloya Snake, he gave me everything I need to build a career on, my career."Olivier Assayas and Juliette Binoche reunite after their previous collaboration Summer Hours in this wonderful meta film that has some slight similarities to Birdman. This could be the female version of that movie although not as entertaining and without all the technical achievements. It is also a little more subtle in its approach. The story begins on a train as re-known actress, Maria Enders Juliette Binoche is heading to Zurich with her personal assistant, Valentine <more>
Kristen Stewart to receive an award on behalf of a dear friend, Wilhelm Melchior, who is the reason why she is now a famous actress. Twenty years ago, he offered her the role to play the lead character in the stage and later on in the film adaptation of that play. On their way to Zurich they receive the terrible news of his passing which deeply saddens her. After the ceremony Valentine arranged a meeting with Klaus Lars Eidinger who wants Maria to play the older character in his adaptation of Wilhelm's novel. She continues to identify with the strong younger character and doesn't feel its correct for her to play the weaker role of Helen, but ultimately she agrees to do it. The lead character will be played by the promising young actress Jo-Ann Ellis Chloe Grace Moretz who has had her share of scandals with paparazzi's recently. In order to prepare for the role, Maria and Valentine travel to Wilhelm's former home in Sils Maria surrounded by the gorgeous Alps. Here, Maria is forced to reflect on her career and come to terms with the fact that she's an aging actress. Clouds of Sils Maria is another film that reminds us that life imitates art because we are always finding ways to express ourselves and the means to do so is through art. Maria is forced to come to terms with her reality through the acceptance of this character she's not thrilled about playing because she doesn't seem to understand her. There are several scenes in which she is rehearsing the lines with Valentine that kind of blur the line between fantasy and reality. There were moments in which i didn't know if they were actually arguing or if they were simply reading the lines of the play. Those scenes were memorable and unique and I believe are at the center of this film. There are also some great conversations between the two about art and blockbuster Hollywood movies portraying the opposing two point of views. The film is rich with strong female characters exploring art and life in a rather authentic way. Clouds of Sils Maria may not be for everyone because it is slow paced and some scenes can become tedious if you aren't a patient viewer, but I found it a rewarding experience and a solid exploration of the passage of time and coming to terms with it. The classical music score Pachelbel's Canon in D Major also gives the film a touch of class. The scenery is also beautiful and it makes each conversation all the more profound.Juliette Binoche has always been a wonderful actress so it comes as no surprise that she deliver yet another solid and touching performance. The real question everyone had was whether or not Kristen Stewart could hold her own next to this talented actress. The two share a lot of screen time together and at no point did I feel that Binoche was eating up the screen. Stewart gives in my opinion the best performance of her career and I did really like her in Camp X-Ray and Still Alice and she truly shines here. She won the Cesar France's version of the Oscars for best supporting screenplay and she proves that with the right material she can deliver solid roles. Chloe Grace Moretz also delivers a strong performance despite not having much screen time. She's hilarious in the scenes where Maria looks up her name on the internet and we get clips of the scandals she's been involved in. All in all, this is a solid film exploring some interesting subjects with solid performances and a beautiful landscape. http://estebueno10.blogspot.com/
Fantastic work from both Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. The latter showed some more naturality in Still Alice and here she has a lot more screen time and is pretty great throughout. It's not an incredibly showy performance, though, not like Binoche's, but I could get behind it for awards love. Chloe Moretz's empty, superficial acting style actually works perfectly for her character here. I doubt it was really much work for her, but it works and she's not a distraction like she usually is. Juliette Binoche is amazing, as always. I could've seen her actually gaining <more>
traction for this film had it been released near the end of the year . The film as a whole is... really weird. It's very entertaining throughout, never once dull, but it feels sort of aimless the more it goes on and while I get what points it was trying to make, it just felt a little too scattered to truly be great.