I wish i could more clearly relay my impression of seeing Olivier Assayas' THE CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA. I was tired, even jet lagged, and i saw it late my last night in Amsterdam for a romantic (reservation for one) fast paced three day travel weekend.
The film was both dreamy and sober, experiential and plot driven, a love story and a horror story. American and French.
Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche play personal assistant to a star and aging theatrical and film star, respectively. Both women surprise. Stewart's American assistant is a no nonsense young woman who is capable above her job title, a woman who Binoche's renowned, confident yet still insecure actor relies on as the eyes and ears experiencing her performance. Stewart speaks quickly and intelligently in the role, informative, well schooled on acting, better informed than her boss about the current crop of filmmaking and acting stars.
The women connected create a bonded relationship, each partner bolder, more solid and self fulfilled.
Binoche plays a great actor, and a great actor can not exist in a vacuum. She must be a part of the world, a part of a relationship, to authentically portray an experience and a connection.
Each woman verifies the other, and informs her stability. But the relationship is not equally distributed, for there is still a vital tension at the center of it, the desire for youth and for new knowledge with the yearning for wisdom, wealth and experience.
Assayas' film refuses to be a straight art film that doubles as modernist vampire genre film as much as it refuses to be straight "making of a film"..film. You could not quite call it a female melodrama either, though it beautifully takes many of the melodrama's elements and runs with them. There is a symbiotic union, struggle and replacement of the Image, (with the female icon as image) and there is also a story of money , sex , seduction (on multiple tiers, be it the seduction of friendship and of Moretz with her author boyfriend) and duplicity.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA is really all of these things, and all of them at once. It is elusive and rich; the mirroring of any image is more of a collection of shards of glass. The movie is dense, yet
quiet in it's construction.
The relationship fulfills a vital need for both women, but when one disappears, is it because her need has been surpassed? Her role replaced...or is her position and its inherent tension stifled?
The bottom line is that this film encompasses everything that interests me most about Assayas.
It has elements of the Vampire film genre that is an aspect of the corporate take over and female character immolation in DEMONLOVER. CLOUDS echoes IRMA VEP in its self reflexivity of actresses as well as the way it nods to other films (Assayas' own SUMMER HOURS , BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT, GERRY.) Much is being acted out here. The single film Assayas has made encompasses at least four themes and genres he has previously explored, yet all coexist coherently. Like in Gus Van Sant's GERRY, the film image and structure itself is forefront and death is on the horizon. In the last quarter of the movie, one of the main women vanishes from the storyline, and she may have also dropped off a cliff in the Alps. She is not brought up again, image surpassing image until one fades away, too far to see, without further mention.
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