Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

Curious and enthralling

Olivier Assayas directs Juliette Binoche in the odd, beautifully shot drama Clouds of Sils Maria, which began confounding audiences on the film festival circuit last fall. Binoche stars as fading star Maria Enders, who is getting ready to appear in a restaging of the lesbian romance that gave her artistic credibility and made her famous, except this time as the older lady [sad French trombone]. Hiding out in the Swiss Alps with her assistant Val (Kristen Stewart, very good), Maria pushes the younger woman to run lines with her, train her up for the show, which sparks debates about aging and meaning, the male gaze and the craft of acting. Of course the play and real life begin to mirror one another. Less a narrative than a character study, it’s a sometimes-frustrating but nonetheless curious, enthralling experience seeing the very low-key American Stewart do battle with Binoche’s elegant, European diva—two very different actors, in art and in presentation, out for the same blood. Who wins? See the movie.

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