Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Claire's Camera

Sorry about not getting this finished/posted in time for it to serve as a recommendation to catch the movie before it leaves the Brattle, or any of the Hong Sang-soo films at the Harvard Film Archive; sometimes the words just don't come and the 70-minute film that you figure can get by with a paragraph less proves hard to pin down.

The film itself is pretty good, but one of the things I liked that doesn't necessarily play into the rest of what I thought of the movie was how Hong used the location: Though the Cannes film festival is an important part of the film's background, he avoids it aside from some rented office space and a reference to a party, and while that might have been a practical matter - I suspect that even when made by festival favorites, shooting the red carpets and such might have been a big outlay for a small indie - pushing the glamor to the side, kind of focusing on the business end, works for this movie. It did bump Cannes and the French Riviera in general a bit higher up on my list of places to visit, though probably well away from festival time. Hong makes the city look like a really pleasant combination of Paris and San Diego, and does that sound terrific or what?

La caméra de Claire (La caméra de Claire)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 13 April 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

Cannes has become so associated with its film festival that just setting a movie there seems to warp perception of it and the people involved; it becomes part of this insular world that means something to filmmakers and influential critics who perhaps don't realize how many people it can leave on the outside. Claire's Camera mostly avoids that - it's set in that world and in many ways about it, but not so much so that it loses its basic charm.

Part of that is that it makes the closest thing the film has to a native - Isabelle Huppert's Claire, a Parisian teacher who carries around an instant camera and has come to see a friend's movie at the festival - the most complete tourist among the central group of characters. She's not out of place - Claire can sling the artsy musings as well as anybody who does it for a living - but she's just enough of an outsider to have a little bit of a raised eyebrow at the antics of the film people. It's a fun part for Isabelle Huppert, who is not exactly best known for cheerful, upbeat roles, but plays Claire as something of a much-loved aunt here, often surprised and curious but clearly enjoying the new situations she's finding.

Though Huppert is first-billed, the film spends more time following Jeon Man-hee (Kim Min-hee), who works in film sales and who, between the first and second time the audience sees her, goes from clearly being reluctant to join her boss Nam Yang-hye (Chang Mi-hee) and director So Wan-soo (Jung Jin-young) at a party to having been pressured to quit, though she hangs around rather than go back to Seoul because it's not like Nam is going to pay the fees to change her ticket (not that Nam considers this). What's going on between that trio isn't terribly complicated, but they're a pleasure to watch nonetheless - Kim Min-hee has an easy charm whether working in Korean or English, and she's able to make Man-hee's stumbles in her second language work for the character: It highlights her inexperience in some sports but never marks her as truly ignorant, and it highlights what a likable, gregarious person she is that she keeps trying (and, when she has a wordless moment of understanding, the clarity on her face is twice as effective). Chang Mi-hee has moments when Nam is trying to keep So in line or be his bad cop that echo Lesley Manville's Phantom Thread performance nicely, but with more of a desire for approval in there. Jung jin-young, meanwhile, is perhaps most notable for sort of shifting 45 degrees emotionally at a certain point; he plays the familiar image of a somewhat spoiled artist who seduces when it seduces him and then acts patrician to try and keep young women in line. It's well-done, right down to the layer of charm showing a little wear.

Full review on EFC

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