Conflicted and uncertain as to whether she even wants to do the role, Mary and Val's relationship also begins to subtly changed as the young assistant begins to shed her devotion and professionalism and begins to feel increasingly dissatisfied with always being in at the behest to the older woman's whims and her ideas being airily dismissed. Assayas has directed a subtle film with no big aspirations despite its star power. The theatricality of the piece is reminiscent of 1983's The Dresser, but the tone eschews melodrama, preferring a calm, mature restraint. There are no hysterics, or screaming rows. A subtle frisson of eroticism charges Binoche and Stewart's rapport, but again Assayas is discreet, fading to black and leaving it up to us to decide if anything actually happens in the interstices. Both actresses are excellent, with Binoche given more to do and she flips between attempting to get into the skin of her character and back to her normal self. Stewart, on the other hand, has an easy naturalism as she moves from devotion to rebellion without ever being able to fully express herself.
The two women have a natural humour and ease as they become friends, and perhaps more, but which makes their working relationship increasingly difficult. The theatricality is also offset by the wonderful landscape and the phenomena from which the film takes its title, as the clouds snake through the valley, driven by the morning wind. The slighting references to Hollywood - the pair even watch a fake sci-fi movie - do, however, begin to grate. The sound of straw superheroes being knocked to the ground can be heard. The division of the film into chapters also felt unnecessarily literary and a long and redundant epilogue could easily have been excised, and would in fact have added a star to this review if it had. As Robert Pattinson effectively proved in David Michôd's The Rover (2014), Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria should go some way to rescuing his Twilight co-star from her teeny stardom and establish her as a serious actress in her own right. It was brave to pitch her against one of the greats in Binoche, but it's a move that has ultimately paid off.
The full Glasgow Film Festival 2015 programme, ticketing details and more can be viewed at glasgowfilm.org.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty