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Directed by Olivier Assayas

Starring: Maggie Cheung, B�atrice Dalle, Laura Smet, Ian Brown
Script: Olivier Assayas, Nyle Cavazos Garcia
Original Title: Clean
Running Time: 1:50
Country: France
Year: 2004
Official Site: Clean
The latest film by Olivier Assayas is just beautiful. A deposed rock star must give up drugs and her past way of life to get her son back. Assayas directs a melodrama imprinted with nostalgia. As a precise and attentive archaeologist, he records one of the last vestiges of a bygone era: the independent rock scene of the Eighties. Indeed, his characters belong to the mythology of rock whose mantra was "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll". Today, the flamboyance and rage have disappeared. Relieved of these antics and having returned to a mundane life, his heroine must face and assume her responsibilities.

Assayas opens his film with shots of industrial sites in Canada, a metaphor for the milieu of rock music that he depicts. These lit fires shine in the distance, beautiful and ardent, like the characters. During a disastrous night Emily (an exceptional Maggie Cheung) fights with Lee (James Johnston, a musician who plays with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) and shoots up in her car. At the moment the drug penetrates her body, an incandescent fire spouts out of the mouth of a factory chimney. This destructive fire, an image of the fatal poison that Emily injects, contaminates the set and the heroine's body.

Emily reaches a point of no return. In the early morning, she discovers the rigid body of her companion, who has died of an overdose. Incriminated, she serves a six-month sentence in prison and loses custody of her son, who has been entrusted to his grandparents.

Then the second part of the film, or the return to life, gets underway. After the night and agony of the drugs, Emily walks towards the light. The sublime and expressive light of cinematographer Eric Gautier carries her very moving journey. Emily experiences loneliness. Her friends turn their backs and she no longer has any support in the profession, notably from singer Tricky, playing himself. Assayas films the musicians in concert with control. Whether it's the group Metrics and their singer, all feline grace, or even Tricky, in full hypnotic and feverish trance, his camera vibrates to the tempo of the electrifying music of these artists. These very successful sequences are joyfully based in fiction, all the while bringing a documentary touch t


Assayas directs a very emotional film, antipodal to the very cold Demonlover. The reunion with her child rings true, without being lachrymose. With sincerity the mother addresses her son as an adult. She doesn't try to tone down her descent into Hell, to lie to him about her past. In this, the film is radically detached from Hollywood cinema and its procession of clearance sale emotions. Maggie Cheung portrays a heroine in precarious balance with surety, precision and seriousness. Constantly sober and just actors, such as Nick Nolte, who plays the leading part of the benevolent and protective grandfather, back her up.

In a sumptuous finale, Emily rebuilds herself by and thanks to music. On the proposal by Mazzy Star's David Roback (a cult figure in his own role), she resolves to record an album. Her voice rises naked and stripped, like Emily who is starting from zero. Next, the other tracks of music assemble and envelop her voice, forming a harmonious ensemble. In the same way, Emily recomposes the puzzle of her life.

As for Olivier Assayas, he succeeds with a tour de force with this post-rock film, a melodrama

  Sandrine Marques
  Translated into English by Anji Milanovic

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[User Picture]
On June 11th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC), ankh156 commented:
I've had the dvd since it came out in french.
I think it's touchingly good, as the reviewer does (and you do].

The rôle played by Nick Nolte is extremeley good.

Maggie is sublime, as ever.
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