Rated: R for language and brief graphic nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 10, 2015 Released by: IFC Films
Ethereal middle-aged French actress Juliette Binoche (Godzilla and, an Oscar-winner for her resonant support in The English Patient) reunites quite successfully with director (and writer, here) Olivier Assayas in a ruminative, evocative drama that ties together cinema, society and free enterprise with compelling psychological implications. As well as dealing with pasts to contend and realize the sometimes darker corners of human existence. For some historical cineastes it probably calls to mind elements of Joseph Mankiewicz's much lauded All About Eve with Oscar-quality work from Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.
Clouds of Sils Maria (in French and German with English subtitles) co-stars Kristen Stewart (The Runaways and so good opposite Oscar-winner Julianne Moore of late in Still Alice) and a rapidly maturing Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, If I Stay) and mostly is set in an isolated Alpine abode of a recently fallen playwright. It will most likely connect to a select, more discerning art-house audience.
Binoche's Maria Enders has achieved silver screen stardom in European and U.S. large-scale studio productions surprising pundits while still a teenager in a breakout performance, now request to fill the role of an older lady in a London play in the same tale of what launched her career as a renowned thespian.
But, Maria is tentative about taking on the project because of the what it means to her personally. Stewart's Valentine (or Val) is her young adult Stateside committed assistant who wants her to move past this undue reticence. Because of how it would posit her professionally against an ascending star from the U.S., Jo-Ann Ellis (Moretz).
The set-up by an assured Assayas includes Maria's farewell to the author of the original film, Wilhelm Melchior, as Val is able to have desperate director Klaus Diesterweg (Lard Eidinger) persuade her to be in the cast. Subsequently, how these three women interact with evaluating and jockeying inscrutably tap into issues of turmoil and rivalry. Allegorical significance comes from the movement of an eponymous meteorological phenomenon of what effuses through a gorge.
From the filmmaker's sharp, sensitive execution which contrasts well with a masterful Mankiewicz's insightful diatribe of cynical wit, Sils Maria never clouds the sense of amorous impulse with melancholy yielding a delicately driven chamber play that would have the top, long gone auteurs quietly applauding from the balcony. Especially, when Stewart reveals the potential of her craft opposite an esteemed versatile veteran like Binoche in a consuming, generational dependency.
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