Clouds Of Sils Maria, film review: Juliette Binoche is arrogant, defiant and needy in this slow-burning drama

(15) Olivier Assayas, 124 mins. Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart
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The Independent Culture

The French director Olivier Assayas is well known as an admirer of Ingmar Bergman. This slow-burning, very self-reflexive, largely Swiss-set drama has some of the same flavour as such Bergman -movies as Persona. Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is an ageing diva, a brilliant but volatile actress.

Kristen Stewart plays her assistant and companion. Maria's most famous role was as a fiery young woman in a play by a Swiss playwright with whom she had a tempestuous relationship – but all her relationships are tempestuous. She is now set to appear as the older woman in a revival of the play.

Binoche captures the arrogance, defiance and extreme neediness of the actress, fearful about ageing and intensely suspious of younger rivals. Her relationship with her assistant mirrors that between the woman in the play. The storytelling style is enigmatic to the point of baffling and Maria's self-obsession becomes wearing but the film benefits from its painstaking, Bergman-like attention to character.