‘Clouds of Sils Maria’
“Twilight” is now on Netflix Instant. Much, much more importantly, so is another Kristen Stewart joint: “Clouds of Sils Maria.” “Twilight” made her a star, but this drama won her the Cesar, the French Oscar, for her turn as a cucumber cool personal assistant to a discombobulating actress faintly reminiscent of Juliette Binoche (played by Juliette Binoche). “Sils Maria” has been hard to see since its release two years back, in which time Stewart has cemented her second life as a god of indies and the art house.
Now that “Sils” is on Netflix, it’s a chance to see not only her aces work, but also the film itself — a sneaky twist on the old school Euro-art cinema mindf— like “Persona” or “L’Avventura,” featuring plenty of sly commentary on the celebrity of its American co-star. It worked so well her second team-up with peerless French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, the even more mysterious “Personal Shopper,” arrives in two weeks.
James Franco works too much. He currently has a John Steinbeck adaptation, “In Dubious Battle,” in theaters, and that’s only one of a potential seven Franco-directed opuses due this year. He only produced and acted in this tall-true-story, which, coincidentally or not, is one of the more solid Franco products.
Trashy yet sincere, it relates the story of a strapping young lad (former Disney Channel mainstay Garrett Clayton) who so rocks the gay porn scene that he attracts some very stupid, potentially murderous producers (including Franco). As the suburbanite porn maven who discovers him, Christian Slater re-confirms that the Slater-aissance, like the Winonaissance, is real. (“Heathers” reunion, STAT.) And it’s a welcome reminder that, dodgy as Franco the filmmaker is, he’s always trusty in front of the camera.
As is their wont, FilmStruck just dumped a pile of great films by a great filmmaker onto their service. This time, it’s Joseph Losey, the American ex-pat who was among the exodus of filmmakers during the blacklist. He’s a tricky talent to lock down, working all over Europe and England, toiling in genres as disparate as thrillers, war movies and oddball dramas.
He’s best known for 1963’s “The Servant,” a clinical psychological thriller, stress the “psychological.” Dirk Bogarde plays a dutiful gentleman’s gentleman to a trust fund dolt (James Fox) who slowly, very slowly, undermines his employer, manipulating him until he’s the one with the real power. Losey can’t take full credit for its greatness; it’s a tag team effort with playwright-screenwriter Harold Pinter (his first of three, including 1967’s “Accident,” also on FS), to say nothing of a never more delightfully sinister Bogarde.