Repetition and sample recognition are the cornerstones of South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo’s movies. Hong’s characters are sometimes outlined by their routines—ingesting, awkward flirtation, boozy insults, repeat—as a result of they often mirror their creator’s curiosity within the chance and worth of sincere communication between women and men. On this context, Hong’s punch-drunk meta-comedy “Claire’s Digital camera,” a minor smash hit finally 12 months’s Cannes Movie Competition (the place the movie performed out of competitors), appears fairly normal. Actually, the first two-thirds of “Claire’s Digital camera”—by which naive private assistant Manhee (Min-hee Kim, Hong’s real-life associate) tries to make sense of a catastrophic, sudden break up with filmmaker Wansoo So (Jin-young Jung)—deliver out one of the best in Hong (“The Day He Arrives,” “On the Seashore At Night time Alone”).
However the final third suggests that Hong’s typical drive in direction of half-serious introspection is basically motivated by self-pity. What begins as a woozy comedy about artwork’s potential for larger understanding between artist and topic ultimately devolves right into a navel-gazing doodle. Even the feminine characters are solely sturdy as a result of their male creator hates himself for mistrusting them.
The pitiable conclusion to Hong’s deceptively heady 71-minute self-portrait would not be so upsetting if Manhee wasn’t continually idolized as a personality of uncommon honesty. Manhee’s knack for blunt however sincere dialog is obvious from her first dialogue together with her petty movie distributor boss Yanghye (Mi-hee Chang). Yanghye is aware of that Manhee has slept with director So, and now needs to fireplace her. Which is kinda dumb, since Manhee has a fame for being a tough employee, and has already arrived at Cannes with the intention to assist Yanghye display So’s new movie.
However Yanghye is just too proud to say what’s on her thoughts. She beats across the bush, and insinuates that Manhee is aware of what she’s finished, and the way it makes her untrustworthy and dishonest. However Manhee does not know any such factor. She begs Yanghye to inform her what’s finished incorrect, presumably as a result of she does not suppose that having a one-night-stand with So is such a grievous act of betrayal. Nonetheless, Yanghye calls the pictures, so Manhee will get the sack.
Enter Claire (Isabelle Huppert), a French instructor on trip in Cannes. Claire first stumbles into So, then Manhee, then So and Yanghye collectively, and eventually Manhee alone once more. This unintentional sample permits Claire to see all sides of Manhee’s annoyed romantic/work relationship.
For Hong, Claire’s position as Manhee’s decide and companion is ideal since Claire can be an artist (although she does not consider herself as such). She actually talks like an artist, particularly when she observes that individuals change after you’re taking their . Claire cannot actually clarify that knotty idea, however she does attempt to approximate the identical feeling of intimacy photographer and her topic can share by asking So to look deep into her eyes. He does, however nonetheless does not get it, presumably as a result of he is too self-involved to see past himself. Nonetheless, the concept of sincere communication lingers over the remainder of the movie, and offers it a type of mental weight. How do you discuss to folks truthfully if you happen to’re afraid of claiming what you imply? And is honesty that extra vital than courtesy? Which might you fairly be: proper or right-minded?
These questions dance alongside the floor of Hong’s comedy for some time, as in a scene the place So and Yanghye attempt to have a troublesome discuss after he is gotten plastered. She needs to get again along with him, however he needs to make their relationship strictly skilled. So he unconsciously mimics Claire, and tries to have a look at Yanghye truthfully. With out pondering, he blurts out a praise: she nonetheless appears lovely. This briefly disarms Yanghye, and softens her up. However the second passes, and she or he grows extra determined for his affection: cannot they flip issues round? Not likely, however no less than it is price speaking about, proper?
Claire and Manhee additionally bond in a number of scenes that verify Manhee’s standing as Hong’s free-spirited muse. She provides freely of herself, and is fast to belief, as we see when she volunteers to prepare dinner for Claire minutes after they meet. She additionally refuses to censor herself, as we see when Claire, a kindred spirit, makes a casual comment a couple of male colleague’s “female face.” This line surprisingly cuts to the center of Hong’s comedy: what good is being sincere when the one issues it’s a must to say are trivial? “Claire’s Digital camera” is, like a lot of Hong’s greatest comedies earlier than it, amusing with out essentially being laugh-out-loud humorous.
Sadly, So inevitably confronts Manhee, and repositions her quest for independence a mirrored image of Hong’s neediness (in actual life, Hong and Kim are having a really public affair since Hong’s spouse refuses to grant him a divorce). So concern-trolls Manhee concerning the revealing nature of her shorts, and insists that she ought to know higher since her garments will solely entice the incorrect type of consideration. And for a second, virtually the whole lot in “Claire’s Digital camera” snaps into focus. Even the seemingly random recurring look of a giant, pleasant stray canine makes extra sense: that is the dumb, emotionally disengaged animal that Hong needs he could possibly be. You do not have to care about sincere communication, or emotional filters if you happen to’re only a lovable animal that everyone—particularly Manhee and Claire—finds immediately enticing. Manhee’s post-So life goes on uneventfully, as Hong confirms throughout the movie’s matter-of-fact, dialogue-free closing scene. However that shrug of a conclusion seems like a slap within the face: overlook about all that introspection stuff. Transfer on, present’s over, no one cares.