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2005.03.31

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magasa

not better than Irma Vep, I thick.

Aaron Hillis

"Emily rivals Yoko Ono for most hated rockstar spouse..."

Totally, I found her to be a near-perfect amalgamation of Yoko and Courtney Love.

But, you thought the film was unsentimental? I felt that one of Clean's strengths WAS its back-end sentimentality (as opposed to schmaltz, the hokey and forced kind of sentimentality that Hollywood tends to favor). The fading rocker downfall leading up to Lee's O.D. was definitely the strongest section of the film--and yes, it's no Irma Vep--but it was more of a mid-movie genre jump from swaggering rock-underbelly portrait into simpering child-custody melodrama, crossfading without drawing so much attention to what was more like a tonally-changed, subsequent chapter (once again, as opposed to all the genre-hopping exercises that go out of their way to point out what they've done). In the moment, I was ready to condemn the Nick Nolte scenes because I wanted more of the nightclub posturing and meta-cameos (Tricky, in a pivotal role, but ONLY in relation to Maggie's emotions? Priceless!), but after I left the theater, those final-reel sequences were the ones that lingered for days.

As for the baby-faced Cheung as a junkie? I bought that one entirely, because I once knew a radiantly beautiful couple who retained their looks while chasing the proverbial dragon. I didn't even know of their serious habits until one got in trouble with the law; they were WB-sitcom pretty! Anyway. I look at it this way, Assayas didn't harp on the now cliched moments of the junkie movie: disturbing grittiness, drug-addled acts of insanity/idiocy, or making your hottt stars look wretched to show how fucked up they can "act" (Spun, anyone? Didn't think so.) It's a stronger feat to me that this part of the film was more concerned with the character than her pock marks.

"Clean is one of those films you wish was better than it is."

It worked for me. And I'm usually one of the crankiest when it comes to a film's apparent missed potential. If anything, like I mentioned before, it wasn't the movie I expected. While I wanted more of that Mojo-referencin' cool cats on-the-brink-ness that peppered the first act, it later felt like instant gratification. Those are the moments that I enjoy AND expect in films of this sort, like it were hipster comfort food. But to turn the story 180 degrees into an optimistic, emotionally engaging tale of a mother climbing up from rock-bottom (with emphasis on the RAWWWK!), it slices the film into Maggie's nocturnally fun family and what ultimately becomes her important, real family.

One thing's for sure. I also won't be buying any Maggie albums anytime soon. Eeeeek!

phyrephox

I didn't see the film as being about Maggie as a junkie, but rather as a person whose social standing was wrecked by her association as an addict. The film focused more on her inability to function in a society where her network of family and friends has gradually eroded away through her drug use--a fact she only notices when the loved one she restricted herself to during her addiction dies.

I thought Nolte was fantastic. I also think the movie was entirely worth seeing for that one shot where Maggie is shooting up in her car on the river bank and a plume of flame flares up at the industrial park across the way.

Filmbrain

Nice comments, Aaron and Phyrephox.

Maybe I need to see the film again, but my initial reaction was that he (nicely) handled the whole "I want my child back" thing without a hint of sentimentality.

I don't mind a mid-movie genre change, but I feel that the dramatic tension that was there during the first third evaporated once the film (and Assayas) returned to France.

Granted, her social standing might have been wrecked, but do we really get a sense of that? There are one or two scenes of her struggling as a waitress in a busy Chinese restaurant, but the majority of the Paris section has her in cool bars and cafes, playing pool with Beatrice Dall, and being flirted with by Jeanne Balibar's secretary. Then he'll throw in a shot of Maggie struggling down the street with her suitcases as a balance. I don't know -- that section of the film just felt too light for me.

As I mentioned in the review, I'm very happy that the film isn't a typical recovering-junkie story, but I still feel it loses its bite. It's not the optimism I object to, but that the obstacles on the road there seem to melt away.

Nolte is great, yes, as is the boy. In fact, the last third of the film is wonderful, that is until the recording session scene. Using that as a device to show us how she's better and that things will be fine from now on is, well, a bit uninspired. (Was it Georgia that ended the same way?) Perhaps if the lyrics of the song and/or the performance was stronger, it might have had a greater impact. (Does everything Roback touches have to sound like Mazzy Star?)

Ultimately, this might just be a case of unmet expectations. Clean is a good film, but not a great film.

Aaron

For one of the few (first?) times ever, I completely agree with you Filmbrain, and think I basically said as much when I mentioned it after it screened at Film Comment Selects in February. It's by no means a bad film, but it just left me kind of meh.

Looks like you're finally coming around! :-)

Tom Hall

I think Palm Pictures has this film and will be releasing it later this year...

I agree, I wish it were better. That said, I liked the sequence with the rock band in the club very much. I think Assayas shoots musical sequences better than most (especially the ballroom sequences in LES DESTINEES), and I would love to see him make a musical.

la depressionada

bet beatrice dalle wasn't too clean. is the dvd out w/subtitles yet? (even though i should really just struggle along w/the french.)

jeff

Pretty good movie; and she could not sing.

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