Friday, August 31, 2012

Clean (2004, Olivier Assayas)

FR/GB/CA © 2004 Rectangle Prod. / Rhombus Media / Haystack Prod. / Arte / Forensic Films. EX: Aline Perry, Rupert Preston. P: Niv Fichman, Xavier Giannoli, Xavier Marchand, Edouard Weil. D+SC: Olivier Assayas. DP: Eric Gautier – camera: Aaton 35-III – lenses: Cooke S4 – Super 35 (KodakVision2 500T 5218) – laboratory: DeLuxe (London) – 2,35:1. PD: William Fleming, François-Renaud Labarthe. Cost: Anaïs Romand. Makeup: Thi-Loan Nguyen. Hair: Franck-Pascal Alquinet, Debra Johnson. M: Brian Eno, David Roback, Tricky, Elizabeth Densmore, Metric, Joey Ramone, Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham, The Notwist, z'Howndz. Maggie Cheung sings herself in her song sequences. S: Bill Flynn. ED: Luc Barnier. Casting: Shaheen Baig, Antoinette Boulat, John Buchan, Millie Tom, Isabelle Ungaro. C: Maggie Cheung (Emily Wang), Nick Nolte (Albrecht Hauser), Béatrice Dalle (Elena), Jeanne Balibar (Irene Paolini), Don McKellar (Vernon), Martha Henry (Rosemary Hauser), James Johnston (Lee Hauser), James Dennis (Jay), Rémi Martin (Jean-Pierre), Laetitia Spigarelli (Sandrine). As themselves: Tricky, David Roback, Liz Densmore. Loc: Paris, Hamilton (Ontario), London, San Francisco, Vancouver (British Columbia), Whitby (Ontario). Languages: French, English, Cantonese. 110 min. Not released in Finland. A 35 mm print from Institut Français with English subtitles by Andrew Litwack viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Olivier Assayas), 31 August 2012.

A cool, sober, and strong movie about picking up the pieces and starting anew. The rocker Lee overdoses, his companion Emily goes to prison for possession, she is denied the right to meet her son when she is released, and everybody thinks she is responsible for the death of the highly regarded Lee. Also Lee's mother thinks so and has even told Emily's little son so.

The approach is matter-of-fact, focusing on practical circumstances of life and business arrangements such as recording deals and re-release plans.

Clean is a tale of a disaster and the long and humiliating road - the via dolorosa - that Emily needs to go, but she never gives up.

The parallel story is about Lee's parents: his mother Rosemary turns out to be incurably ill and facing imminent death. Nick Nolte portrays Albrecht, Lee's father and Rosemary's husband, who faces the twin tragedy with silent dignity. His is a great performance.

It seems impossible that Emily might be able to even meet her son Jay, but she succeeds. It's disastrous as first as Jay hates his mother for killing his dad. Emily's heart is broken, and she bursts into tears, but Albrecht believes that people change.

The climax and the turning-point is where Emily gets the chance to talk honestly with Jay about what has  happened. The encounter is psychologically believable and deeply moving, and we believe that Jay changes his mind and wants to stay with his mother now. These sequences are remarkable.

The print is clean and complete. There is an intentionally cold, bleak, urban, and industrial look. Clean has been shot on photochemical 35 mm film, but in this print there is a look which is either duped or like struck from a digital intermediate.

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