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Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria

Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria, 2014, 35 mm, color, sound, 123 minutes. Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) and Valentine (Kristen Stewart).

“YOU CAN'T BE as accomplished as you are and as well-rounded as an actress as you are and still expect to hold on to the privileges of youth.” The admonishment is delivered by twenty-four-year-old Kristen Stewart to Juliette Binoche, age fifty, in Olivier Assayas’s immensely intelligent Clouds of Sils Maria, which he wrote and directed. Technically, it is Stewart’s character, Valentine, a personal assistant, who does the upbraiding, her words aimed at her boss, Binoche’s Maria Enders, an internationally renowned star. Yet so astute is Assayas’s exploration of the unstable boundaries between performing and being, fact and fiction, past and present, text and metatext that making the distinction between actress and role is often beside the point.

Fittingly for a project that is deeply informed by the real offscreen personae of its lead cast, the origin story of Clouds of Sils Maria

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