Claire’s Camera Screen 77 of 12 reviews

Claire’s Camera

2017

Claire’s Camera Poster
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

More Links