On one level, Olivier Assayas's Clean falls into the genre of gorgeous-junkie cautionary tales, but beyond that it's a bitter sketch of the airless, stenchy subterraniums of the fringe rock world, down to the bad hygiene and inveterate dream-spinning. Maggie Cheung, as the recovering heroine struggling to reclaim her life and reacquaint herself with her young son, stalks through the film's cellars, all-night diners, and clouds of cheap ideas with a guileless awkwardness, never fitting in and aware that she is loathed. It's a film of frustrated meetings, humiliations, and petty struggle -- working in a Parisian Chinese eatery, eating crow with successful ex-partners, attacking an acquaintance's medicine cabinet in a moment of emotional collapse. Cheung and Assayas famously signed their divorce on the set, and the circumstances could only have added to the uncompromising unlikability of Cheung's character. Hitting the ground in his ultra-naturalistic mode, Assayas only uncages his star's formidable smile once or twice, never demanding our empathy, making Clean a uniquely pungent portrait of dependent personalities and the strain they put on the social weave.
Director: Olivier Assayas
Writer: Olivier Assayas
Producer: Edouard Weil, Xavier Giannoli, Xavier Marchand and Niv Fichman
Cast: Maggie Cheung, Beatrice Dalle, Nick Nolte, Jeanne Balibar, James Johnston, James Dennis, Don McKellar, Martha Henry, Remi Martin and Laetitia Spigarelli