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July 28, 2020

The vicious world of Female relationships- 'Clouds of Sils Maria' is the film of this week!

The vicious world of Female relationships- 'Clouds of Sils Maria' is the film of this week!

Here's something new to feast your eyes on!

The past few months have quite frankly been a struggle for most of us. For me it's been a daily rollercoaster of emotions spanning everything from extreme elation to anxiety induced hair-wrenching, which yes I know is not a great source of emotional relief!

Outside of friends, family & my good old husband helping to ease the banes of virtual locked in life, I've fallen back to my true friend & ultimate companion being films to keep me sane.

Given the sheer volume of films I've been getting through each week I figured it was about time I stopped being so lazy & actually document them via a regular feature. So from this week moving forward I'll be doing a 'Film of the Week' plus an extra article here & there.

While the content may vary each week I'll do my best to keep it as consistent as possible. So here's to showcasing a number of the oddities I've been feasting my eyes on. ❤

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Writer/Director: Olivier Assayas

Running time: 125mins

Who's in it?

Cast (in credits order)
Juliette Binoche : Maria Enders
Kristen Stewart : Valentine
Chloë Grace Moretz : Jo-Ann Ellis
Lars Eidinger : Klaus Diesterweg
Johnny Flynn : Christopher Giles
Angela Winkler : Rosa Melchior
Hanns Zischler : Henryk Wald

What's it about?

'Clouds of Sils Maria' is a richly textured chapter based story examining Maria's artistic relevance & effective mortality.

The story begins with Maria & her assistant Valentine travelling to Sils Maria to honour the death of her mentor Wilhelm.

The haunting cloud formations of the Sils Maria region serve as a backdrop to Maria's emotional journey to revive the play 'Maloja Snake' that launched her into stardom. Only this time she's acting in the very different, mature role which awakens her ageing vulnerabilities & an uncomfortable forced exploration of her physical & moral reflection.

Why I like it ?

It's more than just an exploration of Maria.

Instead it shows the transitions each person experiences independent of Maria  as well as through their interactions with her. Notably we see Valentine's struggle to become an independent free thinker despite her role as Maria's almost 'guide dog' esque personal/professional assistant. While young Jo-Anne has this cunning thirst to be noticed as an artistic talent & relishes replacing Maria in playing the young role of Sigrid in 'Maloja Snake'.

Assayas has an inate talent at developing characters on-screen. Here each women carries a depth too her to bring varied nuances to life. But the absolute best part is how the story progresses with this thematic oscillation between:

  1. female kindness to female rivalry,
  2. fame, fleeting relevance & the loss of privacy,
  3. high culture & low culture- plus their societal persuasion/placings,
  4. the value & need for respect, &,
  5. death, suicide & the relevance of moral choices.

Why it's worth your time?

The pure beauty showcased in the landscapes makes it completely worth your time but it's the deliciously fraught relationships with unresolved tensions & wonderful apt comment on life that will have you coming back for more. I dread the day Juliette Binoche stops making films!

A few years back I took my Mother to the cinema (strange idea I know) to watch it on it's release. The complex consideration of female relationships with all their competitive gentle glories left us speechless. Afterwards we went to have a drink & were both oddly silent while processing what we'd just seen.

It just blew us away & is one of those films that lingers with me constantly. That day it got under my skin & this watch confirmed it is a powerful, exciting film with delicate performances which I look foward to exploring further in future visits.

Well this is neat...

After doing a little bit of research surrounding the film I found these very cool facts about it.

1. Binoche actually pitched the idea of the film to Assayas & he then went away & wrote the script (cool huh?!).
  • He drew inspiration for the story from a very "banal" hiking trip he had with friends in the Swiss Alps & spoke of the atmospheric nature of the area during an 2015 interveiw with Nick Newman of The film Stage

I kind of had feelings for those landscapes, because they are not just beautiful — they are inhabited. They are inhabited by history. They are inhabited by the artists or the writers who have lived there, who have spent their summers there in the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century. So it’s not just a neutral landscape. There are ghosts there, and this is also kind of a ghost story, in a sense — you have this presence there, hovering. I thought there was some kind of connection between this story and those landscapes.(emphasis added)

2. Stewart gave Valentine three tattoos to show her personality
  • The eye references Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' (which Stewart later went on to get as a permanent tattoo)
  • The Three Fish are symbolic of a Speech author David Foster Wallace gave.
  • The smile at the foot refers to Henry Miller's novella "The Smile at the Foot of a Ladder." Wow!

I love the following answer Stewart gave about the tattoos during a roundtable interview with Cannes, following the “Clouds of Sils Maria" screening.

I gave Valentine tattoos for the film, so I had transfers made. You don’t know anything about Valentine, it’s all about Maria . And that’s a huge aspect of the story, is that she never focuses on herself. They never talk about her life, ever. I wanted to show little indications of, ‘Who is that?’ Instead of just playing an assistant that was generic. She has interests, she’s going to places, you just don’t know where they are. And so I got so attached to this one that I got it.”

“This is part of ‘Guernica,'” she said of the tattoo itself. “It’s a Picasso painting that I saw when I was 18 and in Madrid. It fucking floored me and it’s the first time I responded to a piece of art like that. It is just perfect for me. I love what it makes me think of. It’s like ‘keep going, and keep the fucking light on.'” (emphasis added)

Watch it with......

Cognac. Lots of it & dark decadent chocolate. You'll feel irresistably classy & it'll pair perfectly with the moreish landscapes & similar decadence being drunk on screen!

Until next time film lovers.

Isobel ❤❤

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