director Olivier Assayas
Olivier Assayas has emerged as one of the more important names in contemporary European cinema. Of his work, I’ve seen Irma Vep (1996), Demonlover (2002), and Boarding Gate (2007) and I’ve found them all interesting at the very least. I’ve had Summer Hours in my queue for ages…since 2008, apparently. And that means for whatever interest I’ve had in his work, it’s also not been all that profound.
Clouds of Sils Maria was another film of Assayas’s to get good buzz. It stars Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, the latter of whom also appears in his newest film, also buzzing, Personal Shopper (2016).
I’ve read someone comparing Clouds of Sils Maria to Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film Persona, which I have the benefit of having recently seen. Like Persona, it is a relationship film between two women, one an actress. Tonally, it’s utterly different, but I can see the parallels.
Filmed in the Swiss Alps, the titular Sils Maria, Binoche’s character is there to pay tribute to a theatrical director who then suddenly dies. Her tribute becomes an elegy complicates things for Binoche considerably, reflecting on her career, initially as an ingénue, now as an older woman, dealing with modern ingénues. Stewart is her tireless and devout personal assistant.
The actresses are both excellent, playing very differently against one another, each in a role that expands one’s sense of each actress. I’ve noted before that Stewart has been surprisingly good in everything that wasn’t a Twilight movie.
What it all means? I don’t know. Is Assayas really a great director? I also don’t know. I should really try to see some more of his work in closer succession, but the evocation of Bergman in a way highlights a lack of profundity comparatively. So,…again, I don’t know.