Claire’s Camera Screen 17 articles

Claire’s Camera

2017

Claire’s Camera Poster
  • This vulnerability has only become more pronounced as both Hong's stature and his already formidable level of productivity have risen. If there really is all that much to his movies, how come he’s able to turn them around so quickly? Hitchcock called filmmaking a piece of cake, yet the brilliance of his movies was rather immediately apparent. Hong’s films, on the other hand, have an odd, provisional quality that plays out both between and within them—variations on a variation on a theme.

  • Hong writes a philosophy of image-making into the text of the film. Its culminating insight is delivered by Claire, who tells Manhee why she takes pictures: “Because the only way to change things is to look at everything again very slowly.” Hong may write his scripts on the spur of the moment, but his screenplay craft is nonetheless jewel-like, glittering with his characters’ aphoristic observations, which bounce off one another like dialectical billiard balls and spark a sense of visual action.

  • The movie offers up pertinent and dispiriting observations on gender relations, particularly in one scene in which the loathsomely hypocritical So tries to dress down Man-hee for wearing what he considers too-revealing attire at a cocktail party. Ms. Huppert’s presence — steady, warm, thoughtful but with a casual air — keeps the entire enterprise classically comedic.

  • The mixture of the controlled and the (seemingly) casual is the hallmark of Hong's mastery. Claire's Camera is as tightly wound as any drawing-room comedy, yet it may be mistaken for a series of sketches that were made on the fly by friends and collaborators. This film alternatingly builds and releases tension, springing galvanizing sequences that appear to arise out of nowhere, in between eating and polite chitchat.

  • Short and modest even by director Hong Sang-soo’s standards, the 69-minute Claire’s Camera unfolds as a whimsical little riff on trust, infidelity, and the reality-altering magnetism of Isabelle Huppert. And yet, while it’s certainly the most effervescent of the three pictures the prolific Korean filmmaker premiered on the festival circuit in 2017 . . . there are wells of real sadness and even anger in this film.

  • As the pictures accumulate in Claire's little blue purse, they become an index of everyone she meets. When Manhee and Yanghye and So, separately, shuffle through them to find pictures of each other, it catalyzes a quiet resolve to address the problematic workplace dynamic among them. Claire’s not watching anyone—she doesn’t even watch a single film—but taking pictures is her way of saying “I see you, and now I have also met you.”

  • What makes Hong great is that somehow some trace of melancholy always endures beyond the puzzlebox trappings. Even a film as joyful as Claire’s Camera is stuffed with red herrings and non-sequiturs, suggesting a world of banality and entrapment that the characters only fleetingly, sporadically transcend.

  • It reveals its details slowly, as Claire’s photos become a magic mirror that allows Mahnee, her boss, and the director to see each other anew. Claire’s Camera sees the truth in Susan Sontag’s idea that when we photograph other people we see them as they never see themselves... For this viewer, it was a pleasure to submit to this mode of contemplation three times over.

  • The two films by Hong Sang-soo showcased different virtues of his recent output. Claire’s Camera demonstrates the Korean master’s unwavering ability to shoot on the fly and still capture any number of pleasing ambiguities... The droll tale traces the fleeting friendship struck up between Kim Min-hee’s sales agent and Isabelle Huppert’s first time festival visitor, an encounter punctuated by photos that document it and accentuate its ellipses in equal measure.

  • Kim and Huppert are a delightful pair, but amid the cross-cultural bonding comedy that also defined Hong’s Huppert-starring In Another Country (2012), there is a resonant idea about the uses of images. A faintly magical figure toting around a Polaroid camera, Claire views her photographs not as an aide-mémoire but as a tool of transformation: “The only way to change things is to look at everything again very slowly.” The film, less slapdash than it seems, happily supports her claim.

  • It’s all rather breezy (literally, with hair blowing in the wind), and even a bit clunky, but never without charm and fascinating idiosyncrasies. While crafting his desultory tale of self-discovery and the vicissitudes and vagaries of artistic creation, Hong cleverly distills the festival-insider experience, showing us the least crowded nooks of Cannes, from a Spartan beach and an empty café to the corner of the sales agent’s office—a sliver of the Yourself and Yours (2016) poster edge of frame.

  • At one point somewhere in the middle, I briefly forgot who was directing and wondered if Claire might be a sly provocateuse, playing all three legs of the love triangle she's stumbled into against each other while feigning ignorance. But of course that's much too devious for Hong, whose intentions here are downright earnest. Claire's camera is more or less a descendant of Yang Yang's in Yi Yi, showing others what they can't see for themselves.

  • Claire and her pictures are the tissue that pull the plot together, and in a way she _is_ the Hongian element, the time-shifter, the generator of narrative repetition. She revives the truth of the affair, provokes So to go on a bender, instigates jealousy in Yanghye, all without having any real emotional connection to the triangle. She, like Huppert herself, is chance: Claire is circumstantial, essentially "green lighting" the entire sordid plot.

  • It has plenty of the charm characteristic of Hong’s cinema and there’s far worse ways to spend 69 minutes than in the company of his characters as they amble through sunny Cannes idly chatting about love and life. At the same time, knowing the director is capable of achieving so much more with even less – one of his greatest films, Hill of Freedom, is similarly scaled and two minutes shorter – it’s difficult not to end up frustrated by what feels like a rushed and ultimately undercooked work.

  • The breezy Claire’s Camera isn’t only charming and funny, but also one of Hong’s most formally intuitive and sharply written films in some time, and the best of the three works he’s made that draw on his relationship with Kim Min-hee.

  • A nimble and thrifty filmmaker often directly inspired by the places he goes and the people he meets, Hong's wry and plaintive short story satirizes the film industry—raging unseen and unheard offscreen—while ennobling the magic of happenstance meetings and chance’s circuitous ironies.

  • The analogy that Hong’s followers can intuit here is with Hong’s increasingly prolific filmmaking practice — each film an impression of his life at a given point — but that makes it sound more deliberate and specific than it actually is. This is a film of moments and mannerisms, and as with practically all late Hong, it works as an intermezzo — the connective tissue between the last Hong and the next one, always already in the can.

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