Wispy with a dash of charm describes what you will encounter with “Claire’s Camera,” a strange little film by Korean director Hong Sang-soo and co-starring Isabelle Huppert and Kim Min-hee.
The scene is Cannes, where Huppert as Claire has gone because a friend has directed an entry in the Cannes Film Festival. Huppert, professionally a teacher, loves to take photographs, and accordingly, carries her camera everywhere and is always alert to the possibility of a good picture. She also appears to be quite self-contained and lonely with nothing much to do on the trip.
Her counterpart in this story is Kim Min-hee as Man-hee, who is an assistant in a Korean sales group on a mission in Cannes. She is taken by surprise when her boss, sternly played by Chang Min-hee, informs her during a confrontation in a café that she is being dismissed. Man-hee can’t get a clue as to what she has done wrong, but her boss spouts the feeling that she no longer can trust Man-hee, and she cannot work with someone she can’t trust.
This is all rather obtuse, as there is no overt reason not to trust her employee, but when we learn more about the situation, it is evident that there may be competition over a man. Normal behavior might be for the cruelly rebuffed Man-hee to tell her boss what she could go do to herself, but within the pattern of correct behavior, Man-hee gently presses for a reason, and also hopes she might get her job back.
A friendship develops between Claire and Man-hee when they meet on the beach, and thus the women are thrust together, with Claire taking her pictures and sympathizing with Man-hee’s plight. There is not much more to the film, little more than an hour long, but with all of the subtleties in the interaction and what we can observe, one is drawn to the relationship, enhanced by the visual appeal of the women and the quality of their acting. Resorting to mixing time frames back and forth, the director sometimes confuses. But his camera ’s captures the aura he and is stars create. Reviewed March 9, 2018.