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Cannes: 'Clouds of Sils Maria,' Starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, Impresses Critics as Fest Nears Finale

by Beth Hanna
May 23, 2014 11:58 AM
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Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart in 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria" was one of the final competition titles to bow at Cannes 2014, and it seems the festivals programmers were saving a goodie -- if not the best -- for last. 

Reviews are upbeat if not through-the-roof for this tale of an aging actress (Juliet Binoche) who is confronted with a reality of her industry: She is asked to return to the play that launched her to stardom twenty years earlier, but not to the same role. Instead, a much younger actress (Chloe Grace Moretz) snaps it up, while Binoche is cast in an entirely different part. Kristen Stewart plays Binoche's personal assistant.

Sils Maria is the remote region in the Alps where Binoche and Stewart retreat to begin rehearsals for the new role.

With the exception of the Playlist, critics applaud the sharp performances of the three leads, and also the handling of the central theme: that art is of supreme importance, but it's also a fickle thing.

IFC Films has stateside rights to the film; check out two clips here. (First trailer below.) Our TOH! review of the film is here.


French director Olivier Assayas likes his leading ladies unpredictable and punk, crafting wild pipe-bomb thrillers to suit the feral energy of muses such as Maggie Cheung (“Irma Vep”), Chloe Sevigny (“Demonlover”) and Asia Argento (“Boarding Gate”). But does he really understand women? After collaborating with Assayas on 2008’s perfect, albeit ultra-safe “Summer Hours,” actress Juliette Binoche challenged the director to write a part that delved into genuine female experience. Though deceptively casual on its surface, “Clouds of Sils Maria” marks his daring rejoinder, a multi-layered, femme-driven meta-fiction that pushes all involved — including next-gen starlets Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz — to new heights.


Art is the ultimate achievement, says Olivier Assayas's meta-drama with Juliette Binoche as an ageing star, Kristen Stewart her PA and Chloë Grace Moretz the younger model – and it's nearly brilliant enough to convince us.


Some smartypantses will no doubt pull the old “But it’s meta, see so it’s all meant to feel artificial and unreal and contrived.” And maybe it is, maybe Assayas has such a highly developed sense of irony that he has made a not-very-good film to hyper-comment on the nature of not-very-good art. In which case, bully for him, it’s still a not-very-good film.


Assayas’s crisp and thoughtful script brilliantly blurs the lines between life and play. He often drops in on scenes mid-rehearsal, and it takes you a few seconds to realise that Maria and Valentine’s “conversation” isn’t to be taken at face value, while Jo-Ann’s entire scandal-hit life is presented as an ongoing performance, which Valentine keenly follows on show-biz blogs.

There’s smart, enjoyable commentary about the current state of film-acting, too: Maria turns down a role in the new X-Men film because she’s “sick of hanging from wires and working in front of green-screens”, while a trip to the cinema to see Jo-Ann’s latest film leads into a wincingly accurate superhero-film-within-a-film: Valentine watches rapt while Maria rolls her eyes over the top of her 3D goggles.

Binoche plays the role with elegance and melancholic wit...

Hollywood Reporter:

Binoche and Stewart seem so natural and life-like that it would be tempting to suggest that they are playing characters very close to themselves. But this would also be denigrating and condescending, as if to suggest that they’re not really acting at all. Their give-and-take and the timing of their exchanges, particularly in the rehearsal sequences, is wonderfully fluid and non-theatrical; Binoche works in a more animated register, which makes Stewart’s habitual low-keyed style, which can border on the monotone, function as effectively underplayed contrast. Moretz is all high-keyed confidence.  

Given its narrow range of concerns, Clouds of Sils Maria will be mostly of interest to aficionados of theater, acting and the notion of how real and fictional lives can blur to those involved.

Movie City News:

I kinda love Clouds of Sils Maria. At it’s best, it is a female version of My Dinner With Andre. At it’s weakest, it is still interesting.


  • brian fantana | May 23, 2014 5:41 PMReply

    Puzzled - you actually read indiewire for reviews???? seriously?

  • Puzzled | May 23, 2014 2:39 PMReply

    Find it interesting that The Playlist has decided to play to Robsessed clicks. They posted a C+ review for Cronenberg's MTTS, then deleted it later that same day, subsequently getting their resident-Robsessed, Kiang to write a new, more positive review. A few days later they published an edited review by the original C+ author -- but with a higher grade! What I'm curious about is if Pattinson's agent is paying Indiewire to give them better reviews? Or offering "exclusives" or some such in trade?
    As a moviegoer, films like Godzilla don't rest on reviews, but indies do much more. How am I supposed to trust Indiewire if the authors are essentially told beforehand what the grade of the movie is going to be? This is all very fishy.
    Seems like payola days in radio, except not sure what transpires to get reviews changed and upgraded. Curiouser and curioser.

  • confused | July 18, 2014 9:47 AM

    @puzzled, I hadn't seen this article before, I search indiewire blog kristen to get all the articles from playlist and their other blogs, today they have removed some of her recent articles I wanted to check, some with negative comments so I think it's kristen they are trying to support and they post more negative articles for Rob
    as for indiewire review for The Rover I think you'll find the B+ was from cannes earlier than the then negative C- , which was posted on rotten tomatoes not the positive B+ so I think your opinion may be wrong on this one

  • HMM BUTTHURT | May 26, 2014 4:26 PM

    @hmmm How is the biggest brand in the world moving into funding movies the same as a critic taking down a poor review, editing it and reporting it with an improved score? After getting another critic to write one that would appease the Robsessed? I have a feeling his fans did what they usually do and attacked the critics and the comment section and they simply wanted more hits.

    Product placement happens in almost every movie, you idiot! But interested that you think that Chanel think so highly if Kstew that they bargain with a tiny indie to get her in there. LMFAO Do you realize how stupid you sound?

    Ps: How do you know that Kristen isn't avoiding being seen with him? Why must it always be the girl who is the one pining after the man who left her? Same thing with Gwyneth Paltrow. It seems to me that Kristen has never been happier since she kicked the Chateau Marmont loving wet blanket out. She certainly is better off without his insane fandom who have sent her death threats, bullied her family and friends over social media, sent completely made up tabloid stories about her to TMZ in the hope of getting them to write scandalous things about her.. to the extent that even they had to tell the crazies to stop, that they were talking BS. Imagine a group of people so immoral that even TMZ want nothing to do with them... Christ alive!

    I'm sure the outstanding reviews have been difficult to swallow but just try to get over your obsession with her. You are going to be very happy if not because she is only getting started. The world is her oyster :)

  • Oddities | May 26, 2014 4:14 PM

    Really? That's weird.

  • Hmmmm | May 23, 2014 9:46 PM

    Wow, you're really obsessed with Pattinson, aren't you? Even though he's gone out of his way to avoid being seen with Stewart for the past year, you still just can't move on. Sad, really.

    You know what really seems like payola? How Stewart got the role in CoSM. Turns out Chanel funded the whole thing. Looks like they told Assayass that if he put her in the movie, they'd pay for the whole thing. And there's a lot of product placement, with Bincoche at Chanel early on in the film, and wearing Chanel multiple times in the film.

    Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, has bragged about how the house not only supplied the actresses with clothes, jewelry, but accessories and makeup.

    Now it makes sense that Assayas and Stewart attended the brand's fall 2013 couture show. The movie also features a cameo by Chanel brand ambassador Caroline de Maigret, who plays a PR for the fashion house. The whole thing reeks of payola.

  • 6awc42 | May 23, 2014 12:23 PMReply

    "With the exception of the Playlist, critics applaud the sharp performances of the three leads"

    it's getting to the point where a bad review from playlist is the strongest endorsement a movie can get

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