The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test: Clouds of Sils Maria

From director and screen writer Olivier Assayas comes Clouds of Sils Maria, a film which examines what happens when a successful, middle-aged actress (Juliette Binoche) agrees to take on a role from the very play which helped launch her career twenty years prior.

The Bechdel, Russo, and Race Test

Clouds of Sils Maria passes the Bechdel test but does not pass the Russo or race test.

There are only a few speaking parts in Clouds of Sils Maria, but of the few characters that do speak, most are named women. And while the named women do mostly talk about and/or mention men in their conversations there are a couple of occasions where named women talked to each other without mentioning men so the film does pass the Bechdel test.

As to the Russo and race test, Clouds of Sils Maria passes neither test, and the film does not pass these tests because there are no LGBTI characters in the film and because there is only one non-White actor (Claire Tran) in the film who speaks.

*The Bechdel test entails three requirements:
1. It has to have at least two (named) women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

*The Vito Russo test entails three requirements:
1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and/or transgender
2. The character must not be solely or predominately defined by her sexual orientation, gender identity and/or as being intersex
3.The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that her removal would have a significant effect

***The race or people of color (POC) test has three requirements:
1. It has two people of color in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something other than a White person

****Just because a film passes the Bechdel, Russo and race test does not mean that it is not sexist, heterosexist, racist and/or cissexist, etc. The Bechdel, Russo and race test is only a bare minimum qualifier for the representation of LGBTI individuals, women and people of color in film. The failure to pass these tests also does not identify whether the central character was a woman, a person of color or a LGBTQI individual and it does not dictate the quality of the film.

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