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Claire’s Camera (A Movie Review)

Claire’s Camera


Starring Isabelle Huppert, Kim Minhee, Chang Mihee, Jung Jinyoung, Yoon Heesun, Lee Wanmin, Kang Taeu, Mark Peranson and Shahira Fahmy.

Screenplay by Hong Sangsoo.

Directed by Hong Sangsoo.

Distributed by Cinema Guild. 69 minutes. Not Rated.

Claire’s Camera is a Korean film made in France. Not much really happens, mostly just three Korean filmmakers independently running into a sweet Parisian teacher, who takes their pictures with her possibly magic camera. All four have slightly stilted, excessively polite and fawning conversations.

There is a drunken affair, an inscrutable firing, a slight reflexive slut shaming by the guy and the blowback of jealousy, but much of this drama was done off-camera and are just discussed ad infinitum by the three women and one man.

And all four happen to run into the same adorable-but-tired hound dog in the alley by a library.

The great majority of the film revolves around this small circle of people, though several other people happen into their lives briefly and then seem to flitter away just as quickly.

We are never sure why and how the camera may be magic. The teacher claims that everyone who has their picture taken is changed elementally, but I’m not sure I picked up on those massive life-changes. If any changes truly happened, they were subtle.

It is shockingly short for a feature – just under 69 minutes long – and honestly it seems to go a little too long for its frail, slight storyline.

And yet, despite all these things, the film is generally good-natured and amiable. It’s sweetly charming, even when it is meandering aimlessly.

Part of this comes from the fact that this meandering is done in the middle of some truly gorgeous scenery. Claire’s Camera captures Cannes in all its bohemian glamour – in general the film avoids the more touristy areas and instead focuses its attention on the funkier backstreets.

Another massive plus is that for the most part all the characters are likable, particularly Manhee (Kim Minhee), the fired filmworker, and Claire (Isabelle Huppert), the sweet and open teacher. Even the slightly sexist director (Jung Jinyoung) and the cut-off owner of the studio (Chang Mihee) are essentially good people who eventually do the right things, basically.

Filmmaker Hong Sang-soo frames this all in a dreamy, gauzy fantasy feel. The acting – even by the wondrous Huppert and the charming Kim – often feels a little stilted and formal, but I believe that was intended. These are tourists, far from home, often speaking other languages than are natural to the characters. (The movie bops randomly between English, French and Korean dialogue.) That dialogue (no matter which language it is in) is generally smart, whimsical and revealing.

Not much else happens, but it’s okay. Not all movies have to make a big splash. Claire’s Camera is more about the little interactions of life; a travelogue into the world of four strangers that we happened to pass on the street.

And did I mention that the scenery is stunningly beautiful? This point can’t be stressed strongly enough.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: June 1, 2018.

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