Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Clouds Of Sils Maria

Clouds Of Sils Maria stars an actor acting as an actor acting as a character who is basically herself (Juliette Binoche), an actor acting as an actor's PA who also acts as an actor when the action requires it (Kristen Stewart), and an actor acting as an actor who's a version of a real-life actor and who acts as Binoche's character's character's PA in the final act (Chloƫ Moretz). If you're heavily into actors and acting, then good news! Your film of the year has arrived.

For everyone else, this is an adequate if prickly affair in which it's hard to empathise with or care about any of the characters and their actorly problems: Binoche's Maria has a fragile ego on the verge of shattering when she has to play a part she doesn't want to because it's a bit close to home; Stewart's Val is a movie star's assistant with an overly distracting habit of nudging her hipster specs back up her own movie star nose, and Moretz's Jo-Ann is a Lohanesque starlet beset by paparazzi thanks to various attention-seeking episodes. Boo, and indeed, hoo. It's not that writer / director Olivier Assayas particularly wants you to like his characters, but the situation in which he places them is such a transparent vehicle for them to sink further into self-absorption that you'd happily leave them all playing to an empty house, safe in the knowledge they wouldn't even notice.

Professional and personal jealousy, a fear of youth and ageing, the blurring of fantasy and reality and a hint of confused sexuality are all potential themes here, but none are explored to a satisfactory degree. Stewart stands out as the one most capable of reading Assayas' pointed dialogue with the most naturalism, while Binoche serves largely to remind audiences of her previous, more subtle stint playing roles within a role in Michael Haneke's Code Unknown. Clouds Of Sils Maria teases a character study worthy of her talents, but is too busy ramming its point home to allow a more satisfying story to flourish.

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