Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Viewed March 11th

Fiction and reality merge and then merge again in this story of an aging actress's relationship to both her assistant and the play that originally made her famous. 

As the majola snake clouds wind around the mountains of Sils Maria, so too does the mercurial narrative-cum-philosophical-investgation of Olivier Assayas's first film with Kristen Stewart. At first, it seems a bit bourgeois art house but still firmly within the realm of a "normal movie." Soon enough, though, its scenes are curling in and around themselves and intersecting directly with the lives of the actual actresses playing these roles. Despite the fact that I'm sure many viewers were turned off by the unabashed artsiness of what was sold as a heartwarming pastoral story, it's a fascinating viewing experience for those ready to engage. Assayas proves himself a modern master of keeping the contemporary (distracted) viewer on the hook emotionally and intellectually, descending deeper into his cinematic world until by the time you leave, it's haunted you. Following this up with Personal Shopper makes the whole Assayas enterprise feel even more motivated. In that film, the experience of a presence from another world haunting the viewer becomes, in my read, the subject of the film.