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TIFF 2014 Review: “Clouds of Sils Maria”



Written and directed by Olivier Assayas

Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz

Clouds of Sils Maria is an absolute chef-d’oeuvre and a true masterpiece.

Maria is a veteran actress who has risen to success due to her role in an acclaimed lesbian play in which she played the part of the younger character – Sigrid, opposite a middle-aged lover. Now, years later, she is offered a part in the same play, but, this time, as the older partner. Maria declines the role, as she does not see herself to be old enough to play the offered character. As Maria’s (Juliette Binoche) life begins to mirror her art, she finds herself facing a younger version of herself in the form of Jo-Ann (Chloe Grace Moretz), an actress with scandalous reputation, who will co-star as ‘Sigrid’ opposite her. Extremely emotional and dependent Maria can see only one person to help her deal with her work and personal matters – her assistant – Valentine (Kristen Stewart).

Clouds of Sils Maria” is one of those highly-acclaimed films that most certainly should be considered as a must-see for every cinema fan. The film premiered at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival, where the cinema-goers had a chance to admire the actress Juliette Binoche and the director Oliver Assayas shine on the red carpet. The creator of “Paris, Je t’aime” – the acclaimed French filmmaker, has probably brought to us one of the best films of this year so far.

Clouds of Sils Maria” tells the story of an actress – Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche), who at the peak of her international career is asked to perform in a play that made her famous twenty years ago. Maria is going through series of personal issues – she is currently filing for divorce, the director of that same play has recently passed away. Due to all these events Maria begins to rely on her assistant – Valentine (Kristen Stewart) with whom she develops an unusual connection, which is yet to confuse Maria even further.

According to Olivier Assayas – he was inspired by the beauty and limitless talent of Juliette Binoche and this was why he decided to write a story where Binoche would play the role of an actress as famous as herself. Assayas has written an incredibly strong script, leaving no gaps and no place for questions that may occur later in the film. His film is not slow and the story develops at a smooth pace as it progresses. Every scene in “Clouds of Sils Maria” is filled with the incomparable magnetism, charm and beauty of Juliette Binoche, whose performance reminds me of being on a roller coaster – it goes up and down, but never ends.

The performance of the actors is something that must be specifically underscored to ensure that prior to watching this film, you will be prepared for something, that we as viewers can’t immediately define – as the performance of these three actresses is absolutely extraordinary. Even though Chloe Grace Moretz does not have much screen time, her performance is both compelling and shocking. Nevertheless, the real stars of the film are Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. The chemistry between these two actresses on the screen is obvious and is a blend that cannot be ignored. As it goes in the saying – a flame cannot burn without fuel. This is exactly how I would describe the performance of the two lead actresses; Binoche appears on the screen like a flame, while Kristen Stewart is the fuel that controls over the emotional condition of Binoche’s Maria. Every time when Kristen’s Valentine puts a little bit fuel into the woods, Binoche turns into a ticking emotional bomb, which explodes when you expect the least.

It is almost impossible to put words into what those two actresses do. And if Binoche’s exceptional performance would not surprise many of you, then I have some good news for those who lost all hope in Kristen Stewart after the “Twilight” series. Stewart delivers an absolutely outstanding performance. She is superb as Valentine and does her best to deliver her best performance even as she shares the screen opposite such a brilliant and masterful screen talent as Juliette Binoche.

In conclusion, “Clouds of Sils Maria” is a very unusual, dazzling and exceptional film by all accounts. It tells, very well, the story of a woman who tries to adapt to the new events and changes in her life and does not give up in the end. I could easily write so many nice words about this film, however – chef-d’oeuvre! It’s one of the films that will make you pause at every single scene and replay it in your head again and again, as you would not want to stop enjoying the masterfully played scenes. If you are looking for a real definition of masterpiece or trying to describe something beautiful and magnificent – then you have to refer to “Clouds of Sils Maria”. The only word I can use to describe this film is – an absolute chef-d’oeuvre and a true masterpiece.

opens April 10 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal!

The film will open throughout the spring in other cities

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