Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Clean (2006)

Given Olivier Assayas's love of music and its relation to the moving image (think of the party scene in Cold Water, or the harsh discordance of Sonic Youth's score matching the vicious corporate mileu in demonlover), it was inevitable that he'd eventually make a film like Clean, which is a series of striking tableaux concerned at least partially with the music industry. What's unexpected is that it's all pretty pictures and wispy tunes and not much else. It's an amorphous film of keen moments and inferred meaning, which can be said of the other two Assayas films I've seen; unlike those other two, though, Clean never coheres into anything beyond those moments. The acting is fine on all counts -- Maggie Cheung deserves the accolades, Nick Nolte plays recessive about as well as anyone these days and where the hell did this Laetitia Spigarelli chick come from? -- and the typically-free-roaming camerawork that comes with an Assayas film, jagged and tense as it is, fits the subject perfectly (a junkie musician trying to kick and get her life back together). That's just it, though: The banal conventionality of the subject matter, coupled with the observational, passive stylistics, ends up creating a film without a spark or a center. It's a character study without a character, style for the sake of itself. Intentional-Unintentional Echoes Dept: Whenever Maggie Cheung's musical stylings would appear within the film, I'd muse that it sounded like Mazzy Star, except not really that good. This was before the film introduced a record producer who wants to work with Cheung with the line, "He had a group called Mazzy Star." Also: Hey, lookit that unexpected shoutout to Maniac!

Grade: C+


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