Join Judge Jesse Ataide as he reviews this installment of "When Bad Titles Happen to Good Films."
Romance and heartbreak in Paris.
A French romantic comedy so soufflé-light that at times it seems all surface with nothing much to say, Clara et Moi falls under that ever-expanding category of romance films where the plot can be summed up as follows: guy meets perfect girl and are happy together, but they inexplicably break up halfway through the film, causing the guy to realize he has made a huge mistake which he clumsily attempts to rectify. In this particular film, that guy is Julien Boisselier (A Loving Father) and the perfect girl is the beautiful, statuesque Julie Gayet (One Hundred and One Nights). After a chance meeting on the Metro the two embark on an intense, sex-filled relationship, and both seem set for a blissful life together. Until, as always happens in films of this nature, an unexpected circumstance blindsides them both, and the relationship that had once seemed an inevitability suddenly becomes an impossibility.
The success of a romantic comedy is almost entirely dependent on the rapport between the two members of the central romance. Boisellier and Gayet do indeed have that special "something," and the film comes off at times as a showcase for their very palpable chemistry. And while this may sound like an overly simple approach to the material, that very simplicity is the film's main asset. This is made clear when early in the film the two leads break out into spontaneous song during their first date: the effect is jarring because it's the complete antithesis of the low-key, minimalist approach the rest of the film takes. But the film dances along lightly, creating a lovely, romantic little bubble around the characters and the viewer and all seems well in the world until the big plot twist surfaces and the film plunges in an entirely different direction. While the twist might be better suited for a forgettable TV movie, within the context of the film it serves as a devastating reminder of the potential pitfalls that can't be avoided or taken for granted in the world of contemporary romance.
The quality of the image is only average. The details aren't very sharp, causing the muted, neutral color scheme to blur and muddy together; French pop star Benjamin Biolay's effective, wistful score doesn't get an audio track that does it much justice either. Thankfully, neither is noticeable enough to detract from the film experience (and besides, high quality isn't necessarily expected on a DVD of this nature—one gets the impression that we're just lucky to have had it released in the first place). Optional subtitles in English are provided, and the film's sole extra is a French theatrical trailer.
Clara et Moi is a gentle, wistful little film, and it didn't take me long for me to realize how taken I was with it. If anything, it's worth watching for the early scene that takes place in the Metro, which is one of the most memorable and unabashedly sweet depictions of silent seduction between strangers I have ever seen. That the entire sequence is so obvious makes it even more enchanting. The same could be said about the entire film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Life Size Entertainment
• French Theatrical Trailer
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