The following review of Hong Sang-soo’s Claire’s Camera appeared at Time Out Chicago today. What appears below is the original unedited version.
Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema, the city’s only local Pan-Asian film organization, recently announced its sixth season. The lineup includes an impressively diverse program of 16 feature-length films from across Asia that will be making their U.S., Midwestern or Chicago premieres. The series kicks off this Tuesday, March 13 with the Japanese film Colors of Wind and runs through May 16. Screenings will be held at various venues across the city, many of which will also play host to filmmakers, actors and critics giving talkbacks following the movies. One of this season’s highlights is the Midwestern Premiere of Claire’s Camera, a delightful French/Korean co-production by the great Korean writer/director (and School of the Art Institute graduate) Hong Sang-soo. At a fleet 69-minute running time, it’s a clever cinematic confection that definitely doesn’t wear out its welcome. The screening, which will be held at Alliance Francaise de Chicago on Thursday, March 22, is free and will be introduced by Columbia College film studies professor Ron Falzone.
Following closely on the heels of On the Beach at Night Alone, arguably Hong’s saddest and most haunting film, Claire’s Camera represents an appealing “about face” – it may be the prolific director’s lightest and funniest work to date. The premise is that Claire (Isabelle Huppert), a French schoolteacher and amateur photography enthusiast, visits the Cannes Film Festival where she befriends a film sales agent’s assistant (Kim Min-hee), a whimsical young woman who has recently been fired from her job for having an affair with her boss’s lover, a famous director. Each of the members of this love triangle is Korean and the bulk of the film’s dialogue is in English, as each of them takes turns conversing with Claire. The comedic chemistry between the legendary Huppert and Kim (star of Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden and several recent Hong films) is amazing: they’re a match made in acting heaven. This being a Hong Sang-soo joint, however, means that extreme naturalism soon gives way to gentle surrealism – the events of the film are shown out of order, which forces the viewer to put them together as if constructing a puzzle, and it’s intriguingly implied that Claire’s camera has the magical ability to alter the destiny of anyone she photographs.
The Alliance Francaise screening of Claire’s Camera is free and open to the public though guests are asked to register in advance on the Asian Pop-Up Cinema website.