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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Picture Claire
Picture Claire
First Look Pictures // R // June 3, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted October 29, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Picture Claire , the 2001 Canadian film from director Bruce McDonald, is a dark, noir-drenched tale that spends 90 minutes going through the motions without generating much in terms of genuine thrills. A stylistic exercise in search of focus, the film is somewhat reprieved by some fine performances by its lead actors but is ultimately hampered by wooden direction and a ho-hum script.

Claire, a police informant, (Juliette Lewis) is in a bit of a pickle. The French-Canadian siren is homeless after a group of thugs torch her Montreal apartment. In desperation, and remembering a promise made to her by boyfriend Billy (Kelly Harms), she makes her way over to Toronto to meet up with him. Billy, a would-be artist of questionable talent, is nowhere to be found, so she combs the city searching for him. Meanwhile, a diamond smuggler named Lily (played by the ferociously lovely, talented, and eminently watchable Gina Gershon), who lives in Billy's building and has a somewhat passing resemblance to Claire, meets her contact Eddie (Mickey Rourke, in little more than a cameo) at a downstairs cafe. Naturally there's a double-cross, and Lily murders Eddie right at the table. The elderly proprietor finds Eddie's corpse, and immediately assumes it was Claire who did the dirty deed, and describes her to the police investigating the crime.

Meanwhile, Claire has discovered that Eddie has used a bunch of candid photographs of her in his latest exhibit, and she's none too pleased about that. Compounding her anger is the discovery that he has a new British girlfriend and has apparently forgotten entirely about Claire. Or so it seems. Meanwhile, two thuggish associates of Eddie, including a rather loquacious arm-breaker named Laramie, are in search of Lily in order to retrieve their diamonds. The police are after Claire to bring her in on murder charges. Lily is in search of Claire when the diamonds inadvertently end up in Claire's possession. And Claire is looking for Billy, and she's pissed.

I'd like to see it made for an entirely entertaining picture, but Picture Claire is your basic exercise in average, uninspired filmmaking. My plot synopsis makes the film more interesting than it seems; the entire story seems like a pointless exercise in setup and resolution without any real dramatic weight. I didn't care about any of these characters, nor was I caught up in any general feeling of suspense or excitement. The film did move at a pretty rapid clip, and I did enjoy the acting: Juliette Lewis and Gina Gershon are both impressive, delivering strong, believable performances. Yet in the end they were hamstrung by uninspired material, and the result is a movie that lies stillborn on the screen when it should pop with intensity. Alas.

The DVD

Video:

Picture Claire is presented in a fullframe aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer seems extraordinarily cropped and tightly boxed, but as of this writing I cannot confirm whether or not this is the original aspect ratio, an open-matte transfer, or a pan-and-scan butchering. The quality is satisfactory: nothing extraordinary, but nothing heinous either. Colors are stable, contrasts are well handled, and compression noise is minimal. Only some notable image softness and recession in darker scenes keep this transfer from being anything more than average.

Audio:

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The delivery is, again, quite satisfactory. Dialog is sharp and demonstrates clarity, with some depth and dynamic range to the soundtrack and pulsing LFE activity. There is noticeable separation in the front, but only limited use of surround channels. Overall, this is a decent soundtrack.

Extras:

The only extra feature is the film's trailer.

Final Thoughts

Picture Claire is an average, uninspiring film that will most likely find its niche on late-night, non-premium cable television. Some fine acting and stylistic overkill cannot overcome a questionable script. The DVD itself is no great shakes, either. The transfer is acceptable, the soundtrack satisfactory, and the extras - save for a trailer - are non-existent. In other words, you can feel safe giving this DVD the good old El Paso.

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