Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:50 pm 
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Quick camerawork

Whether you think Claire's Camera (not her knee, eh?) is a dashed-off sketch or a succinct masterpiece, it's another of Hong Sang-soo's characteristic sequences of two- or three-way dialogues - à la Rohmer, the similarity more obvious with a film shot at Cannes and including a major French star. And it's typically about a boozy, womanizing Korean movie director - that old so-and-so So Wansoo (Jung Jinyoung). Wong's own flashy gf Kim Min-Hee plays Jeon Manhee, a film promoter's employee. Manhee gets fired by her boss Nam Yanghye (Chang Mihee) on the spot, for, it turns out, sleeping with So, who's said boss's longtime bf, but Manhee didn't know that (really?). So, whose latest film is at Cannes and whose star is rising, does some self-flagellation and lashing out at Manhee, but in the end, before the Koreans pack up to go home, Manee gets rehired.

All this would be all too routine, save for the leavening presence of the ever-suave, and here comically modest, Isabelle Huppert as Claire, a lyçée music teacher on vacation for her first time at the Cannes festival (where actually Huppert has twice won Best Actress), who writes songs and poems, and, here, wanders about with a blue Polaroid camera whose instant photos - making her a stand-in for a filmmaker - are art that has the power to change people and their lives, or so she declares, at least.

Actually, there is a lot going on here, which you will probably pick up better if, like me, you've seen (and reviewed) eight or ten of the Korean's movies already before this. Claire's aphorisms and proclamations make her a kind of Prospero (as Deborah Young declared in Hollywood Reporter), a master of revels and re-unifyer or wandering Zen master with the edge of a clown. Everything comes back together. So will continue his upward rise, even though like Nam Yanghye, whom he's "firing" as a gf now, he may (as may Hong) wish things could have the freshness of once-upon-a-time when all these preoccupations and mannerisms were new.

This movie is as meaningful when pondered as it is entertaining. The only trouble with Claire's Camera is that it's not long enough to accumulate the sense of overlapping and dragged-out time (and truly lengthy drunken confabs) his films usually have. And also, magical as Huppert is, light as her touch can be, her presence causes everybody to be much of the time speaking a language not anyone's best, English (despite important Korean discussions and a nod to the beauty of French) - and that can dumb things down just a bit. Mind you, this is a year when Hong has dashed off three films and immediately had each of them shown in a major film festival - two at Cannes and one at Berlin - and there is every indication that this way of working is working better for him all the time.

Claire's Camera/La Caméra de Claire 클레어의 카메라, 69 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2017; 14 other festivals, and was screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival. Released 7 Mar. 2018 in France, the film received a fair but not fabulous 3.4 AlloCiné critics rating. But, surprise, the unpleasable Cahiers du Cinéma (Laura Tuillier) gave it a rave, saying, "Claire's photo-dance should not let us forget that every picture-taking is a taking of power, and that every conte of spring contains its moral." US theatrical release (FSLC) 9 Mar. 2018. Showing at 5 Star Theater, San Francisco, 22 Apr. 2018. Current Metascore 79%.

For the schedule of Cinema Guild's rolling-out US release of this film in Mar., Apr., May and Jun., see here: CLICK.

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