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A woman throws herself into a last-ditch struggle to conquer her demons in this gritty drama from director Olivier Assayas. Lee Hauser James Johnston is a faded rock star who lives with his wife, Emily Wang Maggie Cheung, the former host of a European music video show, in a small town in Western Canada. Both Lee and Emily have been battling drug addiction for years, and when Lee finally dies of an OD, Emily finds herself charged with possession of heroin and ends up spending six months in jail. Lee and Emily's ...
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A woman throws herself into a last-ditch struggle to conquer her demons in this gritty drama from director Olivier Assayas. Lee Hauser James Johnston is a faded rock star who lives with his wife, Emily Wang Maggie Cheung, the former host of a European music video show, in a small town in Western Canada. Both Lee and Emily have been battling drug addiction for years, and when Lee finally dies of an OD, Emily finds herself charged with possession of heroin and ends up spending six months in jail. Lee and Emily's son, Jay James Dennis, has been living with his paternal grandparents, Albrecht Nick Nolte and Rosemary Martha Henry, and while Emily is eager to see her son after getting out of jail, Albrecht persuades her that she needs to get herself clean before she can reconnect with Jay. Determined to get off methadone, Emily relocates to France, where she scares up a job as a waitress and moves in with her old friend Elena Béatrice Dalle. Emily's attempts to start a new career and stay off drugs prove to be an uphill battle, and she doesn't appear to be winning her fight when she learns that Albrecht and Jay will be accompanying Rosemary to London for medical treatment when Rosemary contracts a serious illness -- and that Albrecht is considering making a side trip to Paris. Clean was screened in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
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Special Features

Interviews with Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte, Oliver Assayas, Tricky and Metric; 5.1 Dolby surround sound; US theatrical trailer; Palm previews; Web links
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
The humanistic, traditionally shot and edited drama Clean is a far cry from director Olivier Assayas' previous collaboration with actress Maggie Cheung, the off-the-wall deconstructionist Irma Vep. The compositions are uncluttered with a geometric attention to shapes and lines which, combined with the lighting, accentuates the effect of modern industrial architecture. The landscape is reminiscent of Scandinavia or the Netherlands, and although the film takes place in Canada, Paris, and London, this seems deliberate given the stark personal story contained within. And Assayas' love of Ingmar Bergman. The gray-blue backdrop that the lead character, recovering heroic addict Emily Cheung, inhabits could represent the cold harshness of the uncaring world in which she must build her life and her tough, emotionally guarded way of doing so. It could also show a refreshing eagerness not to wallow in the excessively decadent visual clichés of a hundred other movies about heroin addicts in order to emphasize the emotional over the physical. Emily's desire to be with her son, Jay James Dennis, is conveyed through brief silent gestures. While anticipating a weekend visit from him, a shot showing Emily preparing his bed, taken from outside the bedroom, touchingly captures the frustrated love coursing through her veins. What at first seems like unemotional behavior becomes a sign of deep inner strength. Occasionally the film is too reserved. Like Emily, Clean opens and closes its emotional valves at its own choosing, and not always where it should. The ending, wherein Emily sings a self-penned song in a recording studio, should be the denouement of this character, when we sense to the truest extent what this character has emotionally been through. Afterwards everyone around her seems to think she's done a great job and Emily acts exhausted, but the scene feels underplayed to a fault and tarnishes Cheung's otherwise wonderfully intimate performance. Emily's character, and Cheung's portrayal, is enhanced by Nick Nolte's pitch-perfect embodiment of her ex-husband Lee's father Albrecht. Nolte's grizzled warmth exudes love, patience, responsibility, and hard-won wisdom -- he's the ideal adult in a film where 40-year-olds still want to live like they're 20. In his first lengthy meeting with Emily, Albrecht's advice anchors the film, "I believe in forgiveness. People change. If they need to, they change." Documenting one person's potential for change is certainly an affecting idea and Assayas says he wanted to make Clean "extremely simple and universal as possible." What's at stake is whether or not Emily is disciplined enough to meet her own challenge and lead a straight life. For this character study to work, Emily needs to be an engrossing person, however selfish or unlikable her actions. Maggie Cheung is certainly more than talented and interesting enough for the role. Assayas' stylistic choices can make the action a little too reserved and underwhelming for the story, a too-tidy visual approach for a lead that staggers and stumbles through life. But overall Clean is still an affecting, carefully assembled drama.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/18/2006
  • UPC: 660200313722
  • Original Release: 2004
  • Rating:

  • Source: Palm Pictures / Umvd
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:51:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Maggie Cheung Emily Wang
Nick Nolte Albrecht Hauser
Béatrice Dalle Elena
Jeanne Balibar Irene Paolini
Don McKellar Vernon
Martha Henry Rosemary Hauser
James Johnston Lee Hauser
James Dennis Jay
Laetitia Spigarelli Sandrine
Liz Densmore
David Roback
Emily Haines
Ian Brown
Laura Smet
Remi Martin Jean-Pierre
Technical Credits
Olivier Assayas Director, Screenwriter
Shaheen Baig Casting
Luc Barnier Editor
Antoinette Boulat Casting
John Buchan Casting
Niv Fichman Producer
Bill Fleming Production Designer
Bill Flynn Sound/Sound Designer
Éric Gautier Cinematographer
Herwig Gayer Sound/Sound Designer
Xavier Giannoli Producer
Matthew Gledhill Asst. Director
Françoise-Renaud Labarthe Production Designer
Xavier Marchand Producer
David Roback Score Composer
Anais Romand Costumes/Costume Designer
Guillaume Sciama Sound/Sound Designer
Daniel Sobrino Sound/Sound Designer
Millie Tom Casting
Edouard Weil Producer
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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Clean
1. Doing Deals [6:54]
2. Bad Influence [5:52]
3. Overdose [5:10]
4. Jail Time [3:01]
5. Settling Accounts [9:00]
6. Paris [5:21]
7. Emily's Music [6:38]
8. Sandrine [3:34]
9. Tricky [12:37]
10. I've Changed [7:57]
11. A New Home [2:54]
12. A Visit to the Hospital [3:08]
13. A New Job [6:25]
14. Dashed Hopes [4:46]
15. You Have My Word [10:40]
16. A Deal [7:38]
17. Recording [5:24]
18. End Credits [3:26]
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Disc #1 -- Clean
   Set Up
      2.0 Stereo
      5.1 Dolby Surround
      English Subtitles: On
      English Subtitles: Off
   Scene Selection
         Olivier Assayas
         Maggie Cheung
         Nick Nolte
      US Theatrical Trailer
         If you have a DVD-ROM drive and an internet connection, you can access these websites directly by opening the weblink.html file on this DVD in your browser:
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Maggie Cheung really shines in this film.

    I came across this film the other day and found it rather intriguing. This is pretty much a simple story, a little overlong in places to the point that it does not lose pace or interest in the main characters plight. In here we have Maggie Cheung whom plays Emily Wang, a woman in Hamilton, Ontario, with a past of drug addiction and other life-ruining things. Following a raid, her son gets taken away from her and sent to live with his grandfather Albrecht (Nolte) in Vancouver, B.C. So, Maggie decides to restart her life in Paris. While visiting London, Albrecht takes the grandson to Paris to visit her, and then has to face a moral dilemma about whether or not keeping the boy from his mother is a good idea. This is a poignant, and sometimes meandering study of one woman's uphill battle to sobriety, “Clean” is one of those movies that sneak up on you with a plot that continually puts the heroine in the flimsy position of not knowing if her own demons will give in to her will to survive or consume her. Maggie Cheung gives a great performance as well as James Dennis, as her son, who probably has the strongest lines with the rejection to his mother. Nick Nolte performs an experienced nice man that believes in forgiveness, but he, actor, seems to be tired. Maggie is on-screen almost all the time except when scenes switch to London to focus on Albrecht, his mother, and Jay (and their anger towards Emily), and her performance is an absolutely moving tour-de-force. The camera clearly loves focusing on her alabaster face, deep eyes, and her low-pitched voice as she moves effortlessly from British English to Cantonese then to French. I didn’t even know she spoke French and she speaks it very well. During this film the most touching scene was in the Vincennes Zoo with the boy and Emily who manages a heart-to-heart chat that convinces her son she's not why his dad died -- and might deserve to be his full-time mom. Several brief scenes between Nolte and Cheung does show mutual empathy ("I believe in forgiveness," he tells her) by this being said it gives some emotional authenticity to this film. The inconclusive end makes the optimistic viewer like me believes in a final redemption of Emily, but it is open to different interpretations. If you are a fan of Maggie Cheung, then this movie is for you!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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