Time sucks. It is the relentless phenomenon that creates untold insecurities, anxieties and fears in us all. We are simply clumsy collections of atoms, hurtling toward a certain death, and all we can do is bide our time. We struggle with our relevance, how much we’ve achieved, whether we will be remembered. Time is bizarre, too. As Maria Enders, an aging star in theatre and film, Juliette Binoche illustrates the strangeness of time as it passes and she looks back on herself, both as Maria and as Juliette. Maria and Binoche are in similar stages of their career, and in this case the real world absolutely informs the film. The context of Binoche’s real-life career only helps to serve the point of time’s capriciousness, and it’s just the first of countless meta considerations going on in Olivier Assayas’ masterful and significant film.
Maria’s assistant is played by Kristen Stewart, who has never been better, and as their dynamic grows closer and more complex, the film juggles strong themes of fame, art, intimacy, memory. Stewart represents not only the youth that Maria has left behind, but also Stewart’s own IRL persona. She will slay you, deadpan but utterly affecting. As Maria prepares to stage the sequel to the play that made her famous 20 years prior, this time in the old woman role as opposed to the young ingenue, Stewart comments on her own massive celebrity by defending Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), the TMZ-baiting starlet now in Maria’s old role. Occasionally, the meta commentary seems rather obvious, no longer subtext, as Assayas seems to have no patience for deeply hidden intention. And it’s all in service of his concern with his own legacy (and that of Binoche), as well as where one can find dignity within the frustratingly unstoppable passage of time.
We can never properly process something in the moment that it happens. It eludes us, then it’s gone, and we are stuck forevermore with the lasting implications, the things unsaid, the memory of the experience. Spontaneity, welcome or otherwise, is a constant symptom of life. What do we do with it? Do we carry it around always, or do we pack it away? Assayas is of two minds about this, as he simultaneously invigorates Maria with youthful energy but also finds her lusting after it (through Stewart). Taken together, with its aesthetic precision and gorgeous shots of the Swiss Alps, Assayas and Binoche seem to be negotiating the aftershocks of the past while learning that there are still ways to embrace the present. And they take hold.
Clouds Of Sils Maria
Director Olivier Assayas
Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz
Released : April 10th 2015