In the first scene of "Clouds of Sils Maria," Maria Enders and her personal assistant Valentine are in transit, on a train to Zurich, Switzerland, jostling along tied to technology, irritated with intermittent cell phone service. This opening establishes the film's central relationship and, within minutes, the tragedy that will shape subsequent decisions.
For what is a film but a duet of words and pictures? That fact automatically sets up any movie entitled "Words and Pictures" as redundant. So how to avoid cliche? Screenwriter Gerald di Pego doesn't; in fact, the film is freighted by words, lofted by pictures, the kind on canvas and film.
Veteran Canadian director David Cronenberg has regularly offered strange cinematic visions, a combination of science fiction with psychological and philosophical inquiry. They include: Scanners, Videodrome, Crash, eXistenZ, and Spider. His latest, Cosmopolis, will add to his reputation for exploring the warped and weird but won’t make my list of filmic entertainment.
Iranian writer/director Abbas Kiarostami makes films that pursue a provocative topic rather than a narrative story. He reflects on suicide in Taste of Cherry, on community in The Wind Will Carry Us, and on filmmaking itself in Through the Olive Trees. In his latest work Certified Copy, a couple debate the nature of relationships, authenticity and aesthetics.