Amultilayered, immensely entertaining drama from the great contemporary French director Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria is a singular look at the intersection of high art and popular culture. Now available to stream on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, the film stars the always extraordinary Juliette Binoche as Maria, a stage and screen icon who is being courted to star in a new production of the play that made her famous—only this time she must assume the role of the older woman. Kristen Stewart matches her punch for punch as her beleaguered assistant, called upon to provide support both professional and emotional for her mercurial boss. And Chloë Grace Moretz is Maria’s callow new castmate, a starlet waiting in the wings. An amorphous, soul-searching tale, filled with ethereal images of its Swiss Alps setting, the movie brilliantly dramatizes one woman’s reckoning with herself and the world. Alongside the film, watch an interview with Assayas, a program featuring Binoche and Stewart on their roles in the film, and more.
Also up this week:
Drama erupts against darkening skies in the Sunshine State. In Amy Seimetz’s hypnotic 2013 short When We Lived in Miami, filmed in the city during Hurricane Isaac, a young mother (Seimetz) struggles to raise her daughter after her husband’s departure, with the wind and rain beginning to lash the coast. Using hurricane season as a backdrop for a harder-boiled story, John Huston’s 1948 noir Key Largo stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (together on-screen for the fourth and final time) as inhabitants of a run-down Florida Keys. As they hunker down ahead of an approaching storm, they end up being held hostage by an infamous gangster (Edward G. Robinson).
The siren call of addiction beckons in these two noirish films with jazz-infused scores. Otto Preminger’s 1955 The Man with the Golden Arm, which was controversial at the time of its release for its forthright depiction of heroin addiction, takes a hard look at the life of an aspiring Chicago drummer (Frank Sinatra) who struggles to stay clean after his release from prison. Elmer Bernstein’s music, which was nominated for an Oscar (along with Sinatra), gives the movie its distinctive nervous rhythm. A breakthrough for Japanese New Wave director Masahiro Shinoda, 1964’s seductive and impeccably crafted Pale Flower travels deep into Tokyo’s underworld, tracking a yakuza as he falls under the sway of a beautiful gambling addict. The percussive score by avant-garde composer Toru Takemitsu, a frequent collaborator of Shinoda’s, serves to heighten the seductive yet dangerous atmosphere.