Playing an assistant to a famous actress, Kristen Stewart gave the Cannes Film Festival a self-referential and immediately acclaimed performance.
Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria" premiered on May 23 at Cannes, revealing a new dimension of Stewart, acting in a European production alongside Juliette Binoche. As the cell-phone-tethered assistant to an international, revered veteran actress named Maria Enders (played by Binoche), Stewart's character is full of ironies.
When the two arrive in front of a sea of photographers, the paparazzi ignore Stewart, who rushes to open the door for her boss. Toggling through prospective roles for Enders, the "Twilight" star notes one that has werewolves "for some reason." And retelling tabloid stories about a famous, scandal-plagued Hollywood starlet (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), she defends it without a wink: "It's celebrity news. It's fun."
"For Kristen to play the assistant was hilarious," said Binoche. "Those kind of details she knows more than I do, in a way, because she's really in a world of paparazzi and all that. We had a lot of discussions about that."
Actors often come to Cannes to unveil a more artistically ambitious version of themselves. Stewart's "Twilight" co-star Robert Pattinson also drew raves earlier at the festival for his performances David Michod's "The Rover" and David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars."
Stewart, who was in competition once before at Cannes with 2012's "On the Road," wasn't at the morning press conference with Assayas and her co-stars on May 23, but was expected to walk the red carpet at the film's evening premiere. It's the final film to screen at the 11-day festival, with the Palme d'Or to be handed out May 24.
Portraits of actresses have been a mainstay at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It opened with Nicole Kidman playing Grace Kelly in "Grace of Monaco," a critically savaged melodrama about Kelly marrying into Monaco royalty. In the Hollywood satire "Maps to the Stars," Julianne Moore plays a hysterically desperate aging actress in Los Angeles.
"Clouds of Sils Maria" also features an actress reconciling herself to the passage of time. While Enders and her assistant live remotely in the Swiss Alps, Enders contemplates taking the older role in a play about two actresses, one older and one younger. Twenty years earlier, the younger role was hers, but in this production, it's to be played by an upstart not so unlike Stewart.
On the many layers of fiction and reality in making "Clouds of Sils Maria," co-star Lars Eidinger, who plays a filmmaker, said: "The whole thing was kind of surreal."