olivier assayas

The Barnesyard’s Top 5 Films of 2017 So Far

By Daniel Barnes

1) Your Name.

In a year filled with films that successfully cohabited honest humanity with the supernatural, this animated teenage symphony to God from Japanese director Makoto Shinkai rises above them all.  Restless yet wise, the film plays like a Studio Ghibli version of an emotionally loaded, metaphysical mind-scrambler like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Donnie Darko.

2) Good Time

Robert Pattinson has made some bold choices in recent years, preferring to work with outsider directors instead of cashing in on his fame, but he continued to exude a low-energy indifference until his startlingly brilliant turn in Josh and Benny Safdie’s outrageous urban nightmare.

3) Personal Shopper

Sign that we’re living in the last days, No. 7,830,268: the two best lead performances of the year so far were delivered by the stars of the Twilight franchise (cue: locusts).  Kristen Stewart re-teams with Clouds of Sils Maria writer-director Olivier Assayas for this entrancing and unsettling story of a medium trying to connect with her recently deceased twin brother.

4) A Ghost Story

The most literal ghost movie of 2017, but also the most unexpectedly challenging, as director David Lowery conjures supernatural cliches (including spirits in white sheets with holes for eyes) only to rewire them into this Linklater-meets-Kubrick story of the timelessness of grief.

5) Get Out

As the darkest recesses of white privilege and hate continue to strut their stuff on the national stage, Jordan Peele’s smart, funny and stylish Black Lives Matter horror movie only grows more pungently cathartic.

Check out my 2017 Fall Movie Preview HERE.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “Clouds of Sils Maria”

imagesClouds of Sils Maria (2015; Dir.: Olivier Assayas)

GRADE: B+

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinemas in San Francisco, the Albany Twin in Albany, and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

Oliver Assayas directs Juliette Binoche as an insecure actress who agrees to appear in a new production of the play that made her famous, only this time in the older woman role instead of the ingénue part.  Although Clouds of Sils Maria is essentially a three-woman picture, with Kristen Stewart as an overworked personal assistant and Chloe Grace Moretz as the TMZ-gen Eve to Binoche’s Margo Channing, the narrative is incredibly dense, and it takes Assayas the entire first act just to unpack it all and lay it on the bed.  As Binoche and Stewart retreat to a mountain villa, the separation between performance and reality grows blurry – are they just running through lines, or picking at the scab of their own older woman/ingénue dynamic?  The film explores the psychology of female role-play with depth and intelligence, and the performances are outstanding – Binoche brings her expected ethereal complexity, and a newly affectation-free Stewart cuts through her aura like vinegar through grease.