Clouds of Sils Maria

"Very Good"

Clouds of Sils Maria Review


An intriguing Chinese box of a movie, this slightly too-clever drama unpicks the layers of identity that are concealed behind the image of a celebrity. It's so knowing that it can't help but find revelatory meaning here and there, and the performances are raw and fascinating. There's also spectacular scenery and some darkly swelling emotions. But the themes are pushed a bit too hard, and the plot is enigmatic and oddly unresolved.

At the centre is Maria (Juliette Binoche), a famous actress who is aware that as she ages she's entering a new phase in her career. She's headed with her personal assistant Val (Kristen Steward) to a special event in Sils-Maria, Switzerland, to honour Wilhelm, the director who made Maria a star. But Wilhelm dies just before they arrive, so the event turns into a memorial instead. At the funeral, theatre director Klaus (Lars Eidinger) approaches Maria about starring in a new version of Wilhelm's iconic play Maloja Snake, which refers to an unusual cloud formation in this Alpine region. But this time Maria would play the older woman, while rising-star Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz) takes the ingenue role that sparked Maria's career. While Jo-Ann catches headlines for her bad-girl antics, Maria asks Val to help her get a grip on the alien older character she will be playing.

The story spirals out from here with swirling angles of meaning, as the play within the film becomes entangled with the contrasting public and private lives of the celebrities. Thankfully, even though everything is very pointed, the actors deliver remarkably off-handed performances that are very easy to identify with, revealing their characters' private thoughts and insecurities. There is of course also a further meta-level to all of this, as Jo-Ann's paparazzi-baiting lifestyle echoes experiences Stewart herself has had.

Binoche is perfect for this kind of role, able to bring remarkable textures to Maria's outward expressions of her inner journey. Her scenes with Stewart are beautifully relaxed and honest, while Moretz adds a serious kick as the starlet who knows all to well the effect her naughty behaviour is having. Through all of this, writer-director Olivier Assayas makes sure we get the symbolism that snakes its way through every scene. So even if the plot ultimately turns annoyingly in on itself, the film remains a bracingly astute exploration of identity and celebrity. And in the end, you might just be able to understand why an actress might play a space goddess who can send super-powered rays from her hands if she later gets to make a movie like this.



Clouds of Sils Maria

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 124 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th April 2015

Box Office USA: $0.9M

Budget: $6.6M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Production compaines: CAB Productions, C.G. Cinema, Pallas Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 95 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Charles Gillibert

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz as Jo-Ann Ellis, as Valentine, as Maria Enders, as Piers Roaldson, as Christopher Giles, as Henryk Wald, Aljoscha Stadelmann as Urs Kobler, Luise Berndt as Nelly, Gilles Tschudi as Mayor of Zurich, Benoït Peverelli as Berndt

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