Overstreet

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

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Olivier Assayas is going back to work with Juliette Binoche, according to Deadline.
 

The title refers to the Swiss setting, and the film explores middle age and that introspective period where one questions how they’ve spent their life so far and what they’ve accomplished. Assayas reportedly wrote the script for Binoche, with whom he worked on Summer Hours. She plays an actress obsessed with her past choices, and Wasikowska plays her assistant.

 

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I have to say that this Assayas is perhaps my most anticipated film playing in comp at Cannes this year.

 

Peter Labuza has this to say on Twitter:

 

Assayas's CLOUD OF SILS MARIA is his PERSONA, with two very uniquely attuned performances by Binoche and Stewart: http://t.co/ECBuvHpNPM (@labuzamovies)

 

 

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Note the new title: Clouds of Sils Maria.

 

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My TIFF review:
 

That’s a quality I esteem pretty highly, in a film coming from people whose work I generally esteem. If you sense that’s a preface to my beginning to backpedal, I can only reaffirm that I have nothing particularly negative to say about the film. It left me a little cold, never quite engaging me emotionally, even while I was admiring its virtuosity.

 

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I'll be seeing it tomorrow morning. Probably the film I'm most looking forward to at TIFF.

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Perhaps I'm just not an Assayas fan, but I found this to be a disappointment. It seemed to be built for the relationship between Maria and Valentine to mirror the relationship in the play, but it never clicked for me. The whole first act (the train scene and the actor Maria dislikes) could easily have been cut without hurting the film. It seems like a movie that wishes it were a play. What is the point of the Maloja Snake (other than it's the name of the play) beside the point they are going to see the phenomenon when when Val disappears? What's up with that, anyway?

Edited by Darrel Manson

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Why did you find the last 30 minutes weaker than the rest of the film? Other than Stewart spelling out her exit right before it happens, I can't think of anything I wanted done differently.

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Perhaps I'm just not an Assayas fan, but I found this to be a disappointment. It seemed to be built for the relationship between Maria and Valentine to mirror the relationship in the play, but it never clicked for me. The whole first act (the train scene and the actor Maria dislikes) could easily have been cut without hurting the film.

If the opening were cut, we would not have the full impact of the playwright's death on Maria, and we would not see the wonderful rapport Maria and Val have as employer/employee and as friends.

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Why did you find the last 30 minutes weaker than the rest of the film? Other than Stewart spelling out her exit right before it happens, I can't think of anything I wanted done differently.

 

By that point, the mirroring had become so obvious as to become a distraction from the characters themselves. The characters were serving an idea, rather than vice versa. The mirroring was no longer a provocative suggestion, but the operating principle. It began to feel just a few steps shy of Twilight-Zone-level surreality, and I actually wondered if we were being drawn into a much more conceptual kind of psychological thriller were the line between the players and the play started to break down (Charlie Kaufman-style). I found myself saying "Okay, okay... if this goes where I think it's going...." And then it kinda does. It felt like the movie wanted me to be surprised by

Valentine's exit

, but instead I was thinking,

"Okay, they're both going to disappear from view and only one will emerge."

And at that point my suspension of disbelief really starts running on fumes. That scene feels like should be about the fulfillment of the Snake's metaphoric significance anyway, not an "OMG, the parallels!" scene.

 

Nothing that comes after it really interests me.

Maria's final-scene dispute with Jo-Ann is almost a foregone conclusion, not a surprise betrayal.

 

 

I should add that

the disappearance scene

also felt implausible because I just didn't believe that Maria would go on and on and on about whether those clouds were, or were not, the Snake

without glancing back earlier than she does

. It's kind of a wince-inducing moment for Binoche; she's asked to shout a lot, and I just felt forced and awkward. By contrast, every single moment of desperation and communication in The Loneliest Planet works for me, another movie that involves a lot of mid-hike dialogue and sightseeing, but that never once strikes a false note, nor do its characters seem anything less than natural; they never end up forced around by the movie's ideas.

 

 

Perhaps I'm just not an Assayas fan, but I found this to be a disappointment. It seemed to be built for the relationship between Maria and Valentine to mirror the relationship in the play, but it never clicked for me. The whole first act (the train scene and the actor Maria dislikes) could easily have been cut without hurting the film.

If the opening were cut, we would not have the full impact of the playwright's death on Maria, and we would not see the wonderful rapport Maria and Val have as employer/employee and as friends.

 

 

Agreed. The train scene really drew me in to the story and to the dynamic between these two characters. 

 

I still need to work backward through Assayas' career. I've only seen "Quartier des Enfants Rouges," Museum Hours, and this. I'm intrigued by his preoccupation with transitions between eras and generations.

Edited by Overstreet

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Why did you find the last 30 minutes weaker than the rest of the film? Other than Stewart spelling out her exit right before it happens, I can't think of anything I wanted done differently.

 

By that point, the mirroring had become so obvious as to become a distraction from the characters themselves. The characters were serving an idea, rather than vice versa. The mirroring was no longer a provocative suggestion, but the operating principle. It began to feel just a few steps shy of Twilight-Zone-level surreality, and I actually wondered if we were being drawn into a much more conceptual kind of psychological thriller were the line between the players and the play started to break down (Charlie Kaufman-style). I found myself saying "Okay, okay... if this goes where I think it's going...." And then it kinda does. It felt like the movie wanted me to be surprised by Valentine's exit, but instead I was thinking, "Okay, they're both going to disappear from view and only one will emerge." And at that point my suspension of disbelief really starts running on fumes. That scene feels like should be about the fulfillment of the Snake's metaphoric significance anyway, not an "OMG, the parallels!" scene.

 

Nothing that comes after it really interests me. Maria's final-scene dispute with Jo-Ann is almost a foregone conclusion, not a surprise betrayal. 

 

I should add that the disappearance scene also felt implausible because I just didn't believe that Maria would go on and on and on about whether those clouds were, or were not, the Snake without glancing back earlier than she does. It's kind of a wince-inducing moment for Binoche; she's asked to shout a lot, and I just felt forced and awkward. By contrast, every single moment of desperation and communication in The Loneliest Planet works for me, another movie that involves a lot of mid-hike dialogue and sightseeing, but that never once strikes a false note, nor do its characters seem anything less than natural; they never end up forced around by the movie's ideas.

 

 

Perhaps I'm just not an Assayas fan, but I found this to be a disappointment. It seemed to be built for the relationship between Maria and Valentine to mirror the relationship in the play, but it never clicked for me. The whole first act (the train scene and the actor Maria dislikes) could easily have been cut without hurting the film.

If the opening were cut, we would not have the full impact of the playwright's death on Maria, and we would not see the wonderful rapport Maria and Val have as employer/employee and as friends.

 

 

Agreed. The train scene really drew me in to the story and to the dynamic between these two characters. 

 

I still need to work backward through Assayas' career. I've only seen "Quartier des Enfants Rouges," Museum Summer Hours, and this. I'm intrigued by his preoccupation with transitions between eras and generations.

Edited by Overstreet

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Overstreet wrote:
: I still need to work backward through Assayas' career. I've only seen "Quartier des Enfants Rouges," Museum Hours, and this.

 

Museum Hours was directed by Jem Cohen. I think you mean Summer Hours, in which museums also play a significant role.

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Overstreet wrote:

: I still need to work backward through Assayas' career. I've only seen "Quartier des Enfants Rouges," Museum Hours, and this.

 

Museum Hours was directed by Jem Cohen. I think you mean Summer Hours, in which museums also play a significant role.

I have made that mistake so many times.

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Overstreet wrote:

: I still need to work backward through Assayas' career. I've only seen "Quartier des Enfants Rouges," Museum Hours, and this.

 

Museum Hours was directed by Jem Cohen. I think you mean Summer Hours, in which museums also play a significant role.

 

You won't go wrong watching either one, though.

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So I kind of enjoyed this film.  The thought that popped into my head a few times througout was "pleasant."

 

Possible spoilers throughout.

 

I agree that the train scene was a bit too long.  It was fine as it was, but I expect it would have benefited the film if it was trimmed down a little.  For me something needed trimmed in the first two parts because by the time the film made its way to the epilogue I was ready to leave and started to phase out.  The strange thing was, that I was really enjoying the film for most of its run, but it just didn't have the story to pull me through two hours (or whatever it was.)  Not that the story wasn't great mind you, but there need to be more for me to pull me through.  I've sat through films festivals where there are 15 minute experimental films without any story whatsoever.  The first couple of minutes are intruiging, the next few minutes become a bore, the last few become a struggle.  I've often said that the length of a film should be directly related to its story.

 

I've never seen anything quite like this film, it had so many unique elements.  Possibly none that were unique on their own, but when there are so many placed together.  For instance how it was shot.  It was in beautiful locations yet some of the shots weren't the typical perfectly composed shots to enhance the beautiful locations as a Hollywood film would be.  They were composed to give us a more natural look at the scene (and yes - I know that Independent films do this from time to time.)   

 

Then there was the fascinating interactions this without ruminations on art, film and story seeded throughout.  It gave me a glimpse into a world that I've never quite seen before (I guess I haven't been around.)  I think part of this is of course because the film is so interested in the European film/ theatre culture.  I found the whole "mirror" scenes intruiging because on several occasions the film makes a point of showing us that we can't make to much of the "mirroring", but then at other times it leaves us wondering if they were actually reading from the scripts.  Very clever how that was done.  

 

Then there was the whole "mystery" of the disappearance which I found to be strange and yet completely satisfying.  The one scene with Stewart's character driving in the car kind of set us up to accept it.  There were aspects of her life that we just weren't privy to.  Sure that scene was maybe a little forced.  But for me it just ended up to be unique and bizarre in a good way.  I mean throughout the film Stewart's character really *was* a friend and they *did* enjoy each others company.  It wasn't completly a mirror (maybe not at all), and we don't really know why she disappeared.  For all we know she just simply died.

 

Which was really the most interesting part of the film and maybe its central theme.  All of these characters acted just like we expected they would according to the psychology that had been set up for them ..... until they didn't.  Which gives us a mysterious look at humanity, but on another level is maybe like some of the character's failing books or screenplays - remember the one fellow that died seemed to have previously lost some of his mojo and there was disappointment expressed with the screenplay they were rehearsing.

Edited by Attica

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Spoilers.

 

 

Actually, could it be that the disappearance scene which seemed so odd and at that one point forced, was intentionally "badly written" to be like parts of some of the stories touched on in the film especially the sci-fi movie they viewed in the theatre?  After all, the "snake" certainly had the "fantasy" element to it that the one character thought could have meaning (in the sci-fi character's interactions and inner world) even in its wackiness, yet the other character loathed.  Which leads to another point, it was the character that mocked the fantasy/sci-fi story whom found value in the "snake" (the odd, forced fantasy scene) and had that become an integral part of her story, the other character  didn't show up.

Edited by Attica

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Now available on iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, and Amazon Instant.

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And now it's streaming on Netflix in the U.S.

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