A woman throws herself into a last-ditch struggle to conquer her demons in this gritty drama from director Olivier Assayas. Lee Hauser (James Johnston) is a faded rock star who lives with his wife, Emily Wang (Maggie Cheung), the former host of a European music video show, in a small town in Western Canada. Both Lee and Emily have been battling drug addiction for years, and when Lee finally dies of an OD, Emily finds herself charged with possession of heroin and ends up spending six months in jail. Lee and Emily's son, Jay (James Dennis), has been living with his paternal grandparents, Albrecht (Nick Nolte) and Rosemary (Martha Henry), and while Emily is eager to see her son after getting out of jail, Albrecht persuades her that she needs to get herself clean before she can reconnect with Jay. Determined to get off methadone, Emily relocates to France, where she scares up a job as a waitress and moves in with her old friend Elena (Béatrice Dalle). Emily's attempts to start a new career and stay off drugs prove to be an uphill battle, and she doesn't appear to be winning her fight when she learns that Albrecht and Jay will be accompanying Rosemary to London for medical treatment when Rosemary contracts a serious illness -- and that Albrecht is considering making a side trip to Paris. Clean was screened in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Was the English dialog in CLEAN--prosaic in the extreme and practically dead on the lips of the performers--translated directly from the French? Given that the film was written/directed by Frenchman Olivier Assayas (some of whose movies I have quite enjoyed), I can't help but wonder. Rather than sounding real--with any of the quirks and oddities of actual speech--this script makes each point with such generic obviousness that I finally began to suspect Assayas of doing this deliberately so that the viewer would not feel anything as pedestrian as sympathy or emotion.
More likely, the man simply speaks and hears English as a (distantly) second language and so can bring no "art" to the table when he writes in it. (In his "Demonlover," the language runs the gamut from French to English to Japanese and there is plenty of action plus fascinating visuals to divert the eye from what the ear might hear.) The result here, however, is a shame because Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte and the rest of the cast (Don McKellar, Martha Henry, Beatrice Dalle and Jeanne Balibar) are trying their level best. But the only thing new that Assayas has brought to this story (of an addict who loses first her strung-out hubby and then her child) is some pedestrian English dialog and a lack of sentimentality. Cheung might be enough for some of you--she usually is for me--but this time, it's no go.
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.