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This sweet-natured if somewhat bizarre examination of teenage angst, Israeli-style, proves yet again what a dearth of original ideas seems to plague American cinema; watching this freewheeling, occasionally surreal, study of a young girl with Cassandra-like prophetic powers, is an example of wholly original filmmaking, for better or worse. If it is occasionally uneven in tone, it is just as bracingly refreshing in that you've probably never seen anything quite like it before.
Anchored by two standout performances by Lucy Dubinchik as Clara, and Halil Elohev as her erstwhile boyfriend Tikel, Saint Clara begins with a very funny sequence surrounding the kids' math class, where all students have managed to get a perfect score on a test. "Even good cheating takes brains," exhorts their irate teacher, as the principal glowers in the background. What starts out as a perhaps routine interrogation into classroom antics soon takes on a surrealist element when it turns out this was no run of the mill "peek at the answers" fraud: Clara had predicted the questions (and answers) correctly, something which elevates her into a special status among her classmates and, soon, to her entire community. Complicating matters is the fact that Clara's powers may disappear if she falls in love, and her burgeoning relationship with Tikel therefore may have precarious consequences.
While there are some slight missteps in this effort (a somewhat abortive subplot involving shenaningans at the local seismographic institute, which has a minor payoff at the end of the film), overall Saint Clara is a wonderfully inventive and somewhat subversive comedy mixed with dramatic elements. While the supposed reason for Clara's special powers (exposure to radioactivity? maybe) might be handled by an American director with heavy-handed editorializing, helmers Ari Folman and Ori Sivan keep things light and hilarious with a running commentary on the horrors of nuclear fallout with cutaways to a patently absurd female newscaster.
Anyone looking for something unusual and big hearted is going to have a field day with Saint Clara.
The 1.33:1 image (not pan and scan, its original aspect ratio) is sharp and detailed, with good, if not spectacular, color.
What appears to be a non-Dolby stereo Hebrew soundtrack (there's no info on the package and no audio submenu) works just fine for this film. English subtitles are in white and easy to read.
A stills gallery is the only extra.
Saint Clara is a one of a kind mix of teen comedy and surreal, almost Bunuel-esque, elements. If you're sick of the routine multiplex fare, this will be a welcome diversion.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet