Aug 032015
 
Clouds of Sils Maria Blu-ray Packshot
Title: Clouds Of Sils Maria
Genre: Drama
Starring: Juliette Binoche,
Kristen Stewart,
Chloe Grace Moretz,
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Picture: 1080p
2.39:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0,
Subtitles: English
Runtime: 2 Hours 2 mins
Extras: Interview with Director, Trailer,
Studio: Curzon Artificial Eye
Release Date: USA: Jul 14 2015
UK: Jul 27 2015
See If You Like: Still Alice,
Birdman,

A trio of female performers at their peak

Urgh. After sitting through a load of dreck “summer blockbuster” releases recently, I really could do with a pick-me-up good thoughtful movie. Thankfully, the wonders of the post-awards season home media release schedule has proven to be a blessing in disguise, offering a wonderful catch up session for those worn out by supposedly big money disappointments and over-hyped flops. To see some fine acting is a perfect antidote from the tired out rehash of sequels, comic book movies and reboots. Also, there is some nice surprises to discover as I found after watching Clouds Of Sils Maria, a French-based drama about an actress over-coming grief to understand a role in a play she’s been assigned.

French actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche, Godzilla) is a famous international film and stage star. She’s travelling with her American assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart, Still Alice) to Zurich, to accept an award from her playwright mentor who gave Maria her big breaks in a play and later a film of Maloja Snake. It’s a tale about the relationship between a callous young girl, Sigrid, and a vulnerable older woman, Helena. After her mentor’s sudden death, a grieving Maria suddenly gets an offer to stay again in an updated for modern times production of Maloja Snake, but instead of playing Sigrid as she did in her youth, she has been offered the role of Helena. As Maria struggles to understand the role given to her and the modern day interpretations of the character as she rehearses with Valentine in the remote village of Sils Maria in the Alps, she has reservations of Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz, The Equalizer), the gifted but disruptive and scandalous actress that is in line to play Sigrid.

Now, if Stewart’s ability was ever in doubt previously (and understandably so after those awful Twilight movies which she hasn’t managed to shake the stigma off yet), between Clouds Of Sils Maria & Still Alice, she has gone a long way to establish the fact that she is a damn good actress who is more than capable of putting in a captivating showing here. As the more streetwise and modern assistant, she has to guide a grieving Maria through her reservations about taking on an acting role that seems daunting, try & help her boss understand how the changes that the updated play contains have influenced the characters and cope with the struggles she has put upon her. Similarly, Binoche evokes a mirror image, conveying how Maria is out of touch as she struggles to understand the subtle changes made that give the characters she thought she knew inside out new meaning. Given the fact the film is about these two standing around the Alps and discussing the play for the better part of a hour & a half, the pair create an absorbing dynamic that keeps you enthralled throughout. Not to be outdone Moretz gets a chance to play a pastiche of Lindsey Lohan if she was actually a genuinely talented actress to go hand-in-hand with her drunken homewrecking escapades and it’s dandy.

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA Copyright Carole Bethuel IMG_8268RWhat draws you in to Clouds Of Sils Maria is how subtle everything is. Instead of hammering the point home in dialogue or script that Maria is struggling with the grace of a brick through a window, the option to explore it through the performances which really do carry this film. In fact, if it wasn’t for another uber-stylish backstage of a production film this award season,  Clouds may have picked up more eyes on it. Not to dampen it’s rich detail, depth & intelligence, the complexities surrounding something as simple as an actress and her assistant chatting whilst walking through the Alps rise this meta-fiction into something greater and simply engaging. Director Oliver Assayas (Something In The Air) creates a deep atmosphere that is incredibly layered with so many little clues and touches that makes the film an elegant breeze to sit through.

So if Clouds Of Sils Maria is so good, why did it not get a look in the English speaking parts of western cinema to match it’s success in France and Europe then? For starters, the subtlety to everything is a step too far for the award panels still in my opinion. There’s a tendency to dish gongs out to those far more on the nose in the feels department. Whilst I can stick up for certain aspects in Clouds as to why it was unfairly snubbed, there are little details that may work over in French cinema that don’t swallow to my dirty western based viewing habits. Assayas ends every bloody scene with constant and irritating fade-to-blacks scene transitions throughout which is a personal stylistic choice that removes you from the delicious immersive atmosphere of the film. As much as I enjoy Stewart’s performance, it’s certainly more drier and low key in comparison to the performances you saw in this year’s bunch of award season contenders. The cynical part of me wants to say that Stewart was only gifted the Cesar (the French version of the Oscars) for Best Supporting Actress as she was the only American actress that appeared in a French-based production for some extra worldwide media coverage, since as deep as her performance is, it doesn’t  turn into an amazing must see show to me on her own merit.

Perhaps this will sound negative but the three femme-led performances catapult Clouds Of Sils Maria into must see territory with an acting masterclass with buckets of subtlety thrown in. To a point, it does not come close to similar meta-fictionalised Birdman but I feel they are going for something different with the melancholic struggles of a grieving woman coping with understanding a role. Between the additional more good than bad direction, Stewart, Binoche and Moretz combine for possibly the best acting trio performance in some time, which makes Clouds worth the price of admission alone.

CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA Copyright Carole Bethuel_IMG_2587Picture:

A lovely transfer makes an impressive looking film even better. With a location as varied as the Alps to explore, not once does Clouds Of Sils Maria miss a beat in bringing the natural vibrancy and colour of such a beautiful location to life. The moody downbeat mourning scenes at night are equally balanced by the sun shining days of skinny dipping in a remote lake. Similarly, the use of shadows and dark colours strike a deal with whites and other brights with no clipping. A striking level of quality that goes hand in hand with the top draw clarity and focus.

Audio:

A stellar DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio mix provides a fantastic audio spectacle with atmospheric moods being enhanced ten fold. The dialogue is deep and clear from the very start and enhances the tone the performers deliver on screen. A superb audio mix that compliments both the dialogue and haunting yet beautiful soundtrack.

Extras:

The tying of the laces together for Clouds Of Sils Maria’s Blu-Ray release. There’s next to nothing here. Just an interview with Assayas and a trailer. That’s it. An utter disappointment.

The Bottom Line:

As great as the film is and the transfer to Blu-ray is superb, I’d wait awhile before picking up this home media release of Clouds Of Sils Maria as there’s not enough content to warrant a full price buy. Still, if you are a fan of complex characters and some genuinely intelligent performances to go with them, Clouds offers you an outlet here at least for those tempted.

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife

Film:
Ratings 08 Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com
Video:
Ratings 09
Audio:
Ratings 09
Extras:
Ratings 03
Overall:
Ratings 07