Clouds of Sils Maria is a new art film. The clouds of the title refers to a natural phenomena in a part of the Swiss Alps. When conditions are favorable a river of dense mist snakes its way down a significant stretch of mountain valley. The clouds are symbolic in the movie of the reality of aging and the nearly intangible river of life. This picture has all the depth of The Lion King.
Paula and I saw this pretentious piece of garbage about bored and boring rich and famous people who create problems for themselves because they can’t think of anything else to do at the Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park. The filmmakers hoped we would be fascinated by this tale of witless narcissism supported by seemingly endless means. The owners of the movie theater catered to our comfort. We sat in very wide thickly cushioned leatherish recliners. I’ve been doing this binge/purge diet to maintain my weight and yesterday was an eating day. Armed with a bag (so large it was previously used at feeding time at the Kentucky Derby) of popcorn and an industrial-sized drum full of Coke Zero, I quickly learned the controls of my chair and reclined to a horizontal position as if I were in a hospital bed. To make another Disney cartoon allusion, I was very comfortable in an unhealthy way, like the fat, inert space refugees in Wall-e (remember that boring, politically correct 90 minute public service announcement about eco-responsibility, healthy eating, exercise and the humanizing potential of technology. And now back to today’s mind numb-er…)
The movie can be summed up as follows (INTENTIONAL RUN-ON SENTENCE FRAGMENT WARNING—MY METAPHOR FOR THE EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING THIS CRAP): a beautiful young girl who is a personal assistant, lesbian lover and a Jungian archetypal anima figure of past youth to a beautiful middle-aged actress and movie star who is doing a play about a beautiful young actress who is a Jungian archetypal anima figure to a beautiful middle-aged actress (the beautiful middle aged actress played the role of the beautiful young actress over 20 years ago)… You got that. We are old and young at the same time and we have to accept the transformation and honor our wisdom and self-understanding while remaining in touch with our energy and spirit while never being able to retrieve our innocence, but replacing it with a solidity, but death is coming and there is that… and oh my, I’m tired.
This movie should’ve been called Long Walk for a Short Drink of Water.
All of this psychological and spiritual obviousness was accompanied by a travelogue about the Swiss Alps and lots of supporting actors wearing really expensive sweaters.
I feel badly for rich people. They suffer like everyone else, but they have to make up reasons for the pain. And it is really hard for them because it is hard to be rich and not be a little stupid. Michelle Obama said in 2008 that she wanted to make a big difference early in the Obama Presidency when she and her husband were just a few years away from struggling with family budgets and student loans. She predicted that as the fame, money and power grew she would become isolated from empathy and compassion. She has worked to stay grounded. FDR was a rich man who had heavy braces on his legs that kept him tethered to real problems on the earth.
The Clouds of Sils Maria are supposed to be metaphors for aging and the passing of time. They are actually metaphors for the tragedy of wealth. The filmmakers float like water vapor through the highest elevations fantasizing meaningless pain while oblivious to the real agony below.
I imagined Studs Terkel interviewing a bus boy about his life in one of the 300 scenes in the movie set in incredibly expensive restaurants. That made me feel better along with my feed bag of popcorn, my adjustable bed and my gallon of diet Coke.
Copyright 2015 Richard Thomas