Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)

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The latest from French director Olivier Assayas finally makes its way to Seattle screens this week, opening at Landmark’s Seven Gables Theatre. It stars Juliette Binoche as a very Binochian actress, highly accomplished in both the commercial and artier realms of her trade, as she reluctantly takes on a role in a play by the writer who gave her her big break at age 18. The play is about the toxic relationship between an older businesswoman and her ambitious young intern, and Binoche, having played the young half 20 years earlier, is now asked to take on the older part, a character whose weakness she despises. Kristen Stewart plays Binoche’s assistant, young and plugged into the world, who encourages Binoche to see the play and its characters in a new light. The bulk of the film follows their discussions as they practice lines in the picturesque Swiss Alps, and their relationship draws some expected parallels and unexpected divergences from the play itself.

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Wild Tales (Damián Szifron, 2014)

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Two of the nominees for this past year’s Academy Award for Foreign Language Film see Seattle Screens for the first time this week, with the Grand Illusion showing Germany’s Beloved Sisters while the Seven Gables opens the Argentine film Wild Tales. It’s somewhat of an identity shift for the two venerable U-District theatres, because (as Charles Mudede points out on The Stranger’s blog) as one would expect to find the lushly costumed biopic of a famous poet thrilling the aged crowds of Landmark’s living room while the none-more-black revenge tale sextet would find a natural home on the GI’s genre-freaky calendar. But times change and with today’s diminished Landmark (a mere three first-run screens, down from 24 when I started working for them oh so many years ago), tough programming choices must be made. Not having seen the German film, I’m pretty sure Landmark made the right call, as Wild Tales is the kind of movie that should be a decent hit, if it can find its audience.

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