Pardon the jumble of plugs but they are a necessary obstacle to overcome: Hong Sang-soo’s Claire’s Camera (Highly Recommended) screens this Thursday, March 22nd at the Alliance Française de Chicago as part of the Asian Pop-Up Cinema and the Festival de la Francophonie 2018. This all-caps FREE screening requests its attendees to register here.
Given how infrequent Hong Sang-soo’s films tend to screen in Chicago (On the Beach at Night Alone briefly screened during last October’s Chicago International Film Festival, while other recent Hong films like Yourself and Yours and The Day After remain in nebulous distribution), this Midwestern premiere of Claire’s Camera is compulsory viewing for any cinephile with a fleeting interest in Hong Sang-soo or its lead actors, Isabelle Huppert and Kim Min-hee.
The messy, despairing anxieties that permeated throughout On the Beach at Night Alone are here again in Claire’s Camera. But Hong shifts locales, away from the icy coastline of Gangnueng and despondent grays of Hamburg in favor of the sunny vistas of Cannes. What’s perhaps most striking about Claire’s Camera is how it functions in conversation with Beach at Night, where personal and professional disappointments are reexamined as not soul-crushing existential catastrophes but rather minor inconveniences in an unarrangeable future. There’s a flightiness to Claire’s Camera, as we observe Manhee (Kim Min-hee) getting fired from her marketing job purely on the basis of her quote unquote honesty, to which she responds by taking a selfie with her boss to capture the brief moment. Later in the film, Manhee encounters Claire (Isabelle Huppert), a French schoolteacher visiting for the Cannes Film Festival and the two strike an immediate friendship. They find a common language in English as they learn from one another, exploring their cultures within a temporal setting that seems to be perpetually in flux. Claire’s Mint-Blue Polaroid camera would seem to have the capacity of altering time and space, rendering its viewer to consider each scene as a transient exchange where the audience is left to question and piece together the sequence of events as they unfold.
After something as harrowing as On the Beach at Night Alone, it was difficult to imagine Hong recalibrate to something so warm and affectionate. Claire’s Camera offers a welcome rejoinder, the sort of humorous diversion that functions as a sort of figurative and literal light at the end of the tunnel.
For more information regarding Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema, please click here.