You may define your own banner on the settings page.
FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
sieteocho
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Sinnerman
Ambient Noise
Drakula
daface
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Liverbird
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Bollywood
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
15
19
2046
Acacia
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Audition
Avalon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blackboards
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Butterfly
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Clean
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Desire
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Dolls
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Face
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Friend
Full Alert
Garuda
Gemini
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Grudge
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Headlines
Hero
Hidden Blade, The
Homerun
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
Hypnotized
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Install
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Khakee
Korban Fitnah
Koroshi
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love/Juice
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Metropolis
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Ong-Bak
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
Quill
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Samsara
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Sepet
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Shower
Shutter
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
TalkingCock
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
3-Iron
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Waterboys
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
e-mail me


   Clean  



 

Clean

Reviewed by Chris Khoo

Director: Olivier Assayas
Writing Credits: Olivier Assayas, Malachy Martin, Sarah Perry
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte, James Johnston
Genre: Drama
Country: Canada, France
Language: French, English, Cantonese
Year released: 2004
Runtime: 110 min
Rating: ***½ (out of four stars)

"If there is one overriding idea for this film, it comes from the desire to show that change is possible, that one can become a new person, and that we are not forever chained to our past." - Olivier Assayas

Aspiring singer, Emily Wang (Maggie Cheung) has a roll with her musician husband, Lee Hauser (James Johnston, who plays with Nick Cave) and this ultimate angst would tear Emily’s world apart. Emily shoots up in a car parked in front of a metallic backdrop of some Canadian industrial estate, but when she returns to the hotel in the morning, a rigid Lee lies on the floor. He too escapes into ‘La La land’ during the previous night but unfortunately, an overdose locks him out from the real world. This leads to Emily’s incrimination and she serves six months in jail for possession of heroin. She leaves her son to the care of Lee’s parents, subsequently losing her custody.

Emily comes out of prison, stranded on a bus stop under a clear, bleak winter sky – she is only at the first stop of her wilderness phase. We follow Emily’s emotional journey through a desolate world where only her faith would generate enough warmth for survival. The only person who eventually believes in her is her father-in-law (exquisitely supported by Nick Nolte).

Olivier Assayas directed an intensely honest film about forgiveness and change with sense. This is not the usual drug addict film about the protagonist’s cold turkey sessions where mucus floods the face and tears choke the voice in overt lachrymose tones. Rather, he expounds on the price to pay on the struggling journey to a personal recovery. Not only did Emily lost her husband and her rights to her son, but she almost lost hope – the only reason for her existence. Friends cruelly exit Emily’s life and her mother-in-law condemns her as a murderer although that was never the truth.

Olivier convicts us to be interested in Emily’s character and allows us to witness the molding process which gives birth to a new person. From Emily’s first fall to her first reunion with her son, Olivier treats these moments in unpretentious manners and he succeeds in evening the ominous tone of the film with precision and timing. The bunch of real life indie rock musicians (Emily Haines and Tricky) is also an extra bonus. It creates a raw documentary undercurrent to the film. This is also further complemented with a haunting and sympathetic theme music that becomes Emily's theme.

The role of Emily was especially written for Maggie Cheung and her arresting performance places her as a powerful auteur of the story. Maggie Cheung grew up in England and spends her adulthood in Hong Kong/Paris. This cosmopolitan upbringing allows her to enhance Emily’s character with values of self respect and determination that are fused through an Asian fashion where only her established star persona could fabricate. Drug addict roles there are aplenty but Emily is a rare commodity and Maggie fits the role with zilch vacuum. Olivier establishes several clever shots, creating deep meanings in Maggie’s performance that must emanate from her place in the film’s narrative. With additional creative inputs from Maggie herself, she becomes a unique author of the film. This is Maggie's second collaboration with Olivier Assayas since their divorce. The first one was eight years ago on Irma Vep. There is profound maturity in Maggie Cheung's acting. With subtlety, restraint and seriousness to the subject matter, Maggie delivers a tour de force performance. Cannes is not enough, and an Oscar is not an overstatement. This would be Maggie's second international award since her Berlin silver bear win in 1992 for The Actress. Clean is the pinnacle of Maggie Cheung’s prolific acting career.

Bleak and gloomy as the film is, Olivier never forgets the hope that we harbour along with Emily. It is not aimed at pacifying us, the audience, but rather emphasizing the importance and purpose of Emily’s struggle. It certainly did not go in vain and as Emily nears the end of her wilderness, she finally secures a demo recording session and sings with raw emotions. Maggie's final expression of relief, gratitude, joy, love and a sense of being cleansed is... Priceless.

Cannes Film Festival 2004 winner – Prix d'interprétation feminine: Maggie Cheung.