Sunday, September 12, 2004

Toronto Film Festival--"Clean"

The first film I ever saw by French director Olivier Assayas was Irma Vep (1996), which is in a genre I particularly like--a movie about the making of a movie.

My favorite film in that genre is Truffaut's Day For Night, and Irma Vep seemed like the dark flip side to that film, much more night than day.

I find it exciting that every Assayas movie is an utterly conscious about-face from the previous one. His last film was the experimental corporate/cybersex thriller demonlover, now fast on its way to becoming a cult movie.

And of course, Assayas's new film, Clean, is completely unlike demonlover.
In it, Hong Kong superstar (and Assayas's former wife) Maggie Cheung plays a rock-n-roll widow and drug addict (the French word for which, I learned this weekend, is the vivid toxicomaniac!), who struggles to get clean and regain custody of her child from her in-laws.

Despite Assayas's signature hand-held camerawork (which is as gritty and beautiful as always), this is his most classical, stylistically conventional and emotionally powerful film.

Like they say--sometimes, old is the newest of all.