aka La Caméra de Claire
Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
Hong Sang-soo continues to be an unstoppable movie-making machine, and with Claire’s Camera he continues his streak of producing high quality, entertaining films quickly and distinctively. I immediately pounced when I saw this was screening in this year’s SFIFF, but luckily had I missed it, 4-Star started screening it soon after. Which means I’ll have to make it up to 4-Star by seeing a different film there, no big deal as I don’t mind heading over there at all.
Like On the Beach at Night Alone, Claire’s Camera deals with the results of an affair involving a director, braiding the ropes of reality and fiction of his real life affair with Kim Min-hee into more artistic output. While On the Beach at Night Alone dealt more with the feminine side of a scandal and had a cathartic scene of confrontation, Claire’s Camera is more directly abstract, crystallizing the differences of before and after incidents. Some might argue that Hong is mining the same themes far too often, but he’s handling it in unique ways each time and so many other relationship films deal with similar themes, so hold all criticisms until things start actually getting stale.
Jeon Manhee (Kim Min-hee) is a buyer for films, in France along with the production company she works at, as one of their clients, Director So Wansoo (Jung Jin-young) is screening a film. She meets her boss at a cafe, where the boss Nam Yanghye (Chang Mi-hee) forces her to quit, explaining she no longer has trust in her to do the right thing. This gives Manhee time to wander around France, as she decides to spend a few days in town before heading back to South Korea. Later we learn that the director had an affair with her, and that Nam Yanghye is basically in a relationship with him, explaining the motivations.
Enter Claire (Isabelle Huppert), who is visiting the festival as a friend of hers has a short film screening, and soon integrates herself with both Director So and Manhee, yet separately without mentioning to either that she knows the other. The only points of connection are the photos she takes, where each spot the other among the photographs. It’s great to see Isabelle Huppert and Kim Min-hee bouncing off each other, even if neither is doing so in their native language, both conversing in English as a way to bridge the cultural divide.
Despite at least one audience member whispering to her companion that she didn’t get it, Claire’s Camera almost directly spells itself out for you, with Claire basically explaining the photograph constructs as moments in time that people can reflect on how they were different before and after. Sort of like important incidents in people’s lives and their later remembrances and analyses of said incidents. The important bit is Claire isn’t a woman named Claire, she’s the embodiment of the characters reflecting on the important incidents of the past few days that led them to where they are.
Other Hong Sang-soo themes run around. There are long scenes often set at cafes or at people’s apartments for dinner, there is a scene at a bookstore, and people take time to absorb what the other said before continuing the conversation. There’s even a scene set in a building that has a mural where a man seems to be torn between two women, remarked on by both Claire and Manhee. The resolution seems to be yet another conceit by Hong Sang-soo that he isn’t the best of guys. I’m torn from wanting Hong Sang-soo to become a better person (and feel he’s become a better person) or to continue to be mired by his own failings and produce good art (just kidding, I always wish for the best, I just thought this would be funny to write!) Either way Hong Sang-soo goes, I’ll be there to follow his self-analysis!
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