Clouds Of Sils Maria

Director: Olivier Assayas (2015)

Three fine talents are wasted in this indulgent and exasperating mediation on age, acting and art.

Actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) appeared in the play Maloja Snake, kickstarting her career and making her famous. From the dialogue we hear the play sounds unbearable.

Maria’s role was a young intern called Sigrid who is involved in an exploitative relationship with her boss Helena. Now years later, Maria is invited to take part in a new production but this time taking the part of Helena.

Her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) acts as a driver, confident and drinking buddy who helps Maria prepare for the role.

Pitched to be the new Sigrid is Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz), a gun-toting, rehabbing, paparazzi-magnet who is an amalgam of the worst headlines of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. She brings much needed spite and bile to the self-satisfied proceedings.

Maria is an irritating combination of affectations; a needy, attention-seeking, pill-popping alcoholic who flirts with anyone offering work. Everyone is duplicitous and solicitous and every expression of feeling is a calculation.

This may an accurate reflection of the life of an actress but it’s far from an original one and gives us little reason to warm to Maria. Susan Sarandon sent up the self-obsessive nature of actors far more entertainingly as a guest star in TV’s Friends.

When the directionally-challenged Maria and Valentine struggle up a mountain brandishing a map, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the similarly themed and equally dull and indulgent Maps To The Stars (2014).

There are frequent mountain walks, a little drunk-driving, some skinny dipping, endless rehearsals and too many discussions of age changing perspective. It’s high-handedly critical of celebrity culture, the internet and Hollywood films.

Riffing on the film’s exploration of age-defined femininity, Binoche embraces nudity and Stewart doesn’t.

This is a theatre acting class masquerading as cinema but I’m not sure I’m sufficiently communicating the extreme turpitude of the viewing experience.

The Swiss scenery is beautiful and shot with crisp veneration by cinematographer Yorick Le Saux.

The Clouds Of Sils Maria is an example of aiming to make art and failing to create anything as humble as an entertainment.

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