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Clean (Bilingual)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte, Béatrice Dalle, Jeanne Balibar, Don McKellar
  • Directors: Olivier Assayas
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English, French, Cantonese Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Release Date: March 21 2006
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E41MSG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,693 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Emily Wang (Maggie Cheung) is a woman who wrestles with her dream of becoming a singer, her fitness as a mother, and daily life without her partner Lee (James Johnston). Her past is riddled with drugs and regrets, the result of which left Lee dead in a desolate motel room in Hamilton, Ontario, and landed Emily with a six-month jail sentence. The only thing that she desires for the future is a loving relationship with her son Jay, who is being cared for by Lee's parents, Albrecht (Nick Nolte) and Rosemary (Martha Henry). While Rosemary blames Emily for the death of Lee, Albrecht recognizes the importance of the bond between a mother and her son, and his faith sets the standard for the faith Emily must find in herself. CLEAN follows Emily to Hamilton, Paris, London and San Francisco and in three languages, as she battle for a place in a world reluctant to forget the woman she has been and unwilling to accept her as the woman she longs to be.

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By Eric Medina on May 17 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Not much to say about this movie. It is brilliant. Highly recommended to any movie buff. Maggie Cheung is a great actress.
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Format: DVD
Maggie Cheung plays a junkie rock ex-semi-star. Her common law husband, also a never-quite-made-it rocker in decline dies of a heroin overdose. She spends 6 months in prison for possession. Meanwhile her young son is being raised by her dead husband's parents.

Nick Nolte, as the grandfather does some terrific, nuanced work as a flinty man, with a soft heart.

He won't let Cheung see her son until she gets her life together, which she circuitously
does, weaning herself off drugs, getting basic work, and eventually starting the process of reconnecting to her son, especially as Nolte realizes, with his wife dying, and his own aging, the boy will eventually need his mother.

The film avoids the usual clichés and sensationalism of drug movies - no throwing
up or screaming withdrawals. It's low key and real, filled with small moments of life
rather than than dramatic highlights. It's willing to have lead characters who are unlikable
and selfish at times, and yet still makes us care for, and be moved by them.

But there's also a flatness to it. And a sense of familiarity and predictability to the plot, if
not the execution. It's great that it doesn't fall into melodrama, but it feels distanced. As
one critic put it `it avoids moralizing, but fails to replace it with anything'. A bit harsh, but
not without some truth.

Also, Cheung, while very good in spots, never seems believable as a junkie; she's gorgeous healthy looking and luminous on drugs or off.

On the other hand the photography is beautiful, and the score is filled with wonderful and effective music by Brian Eno.

Worth a look for the acting, and the small grace moments throughout.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Vibrant Portrait of Struggle with One's Own Inadequacies. Aug. 21 2006
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
"Clean" is the second film that director Olivier Assayas wrote with actress Maggie Cheung in mind. When they first collaborated on 1996's "Irma Vepp", Cheung was a big Hong Kong movie star whom Assayas didn't know well. Now Cheung is Assayas' ex-wife (their divorce was finalized during filming), and "Clean" provides her an opportunity to create a more intimate portrait. The result is one of the most striking performances of 2004, for which Maggie Cheung won a Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival and a French Cesar nomination in 2005. Cinematographer Eric Gautier was likewise honored with a Cannes win and Cesar nomination. "Clean" is a French independent film but has a wonderful international quality -due to its diverse cast and locations- without sacrificing its clear sense of place in Canada and Paris, France. Assayas cast real musicians wherever he could, in keeping with docu-drama and neo-realist traditions of populating movies with authentic supporting players.

Lee (James Johnson) is a talented rock musician and songwriter whose career has fizzled in part due to a heroin habit. His junkie wife Emily (Maggie Cheung), an aspiring singer, is argumentative, unrealistic, and generally hated and blamed for Lee's demise by his friends. When Lee dies of an overdose, Emily is busted for heroin possession. When she gets out of prison, Lee's father Albrecht (Nick Nolte) is kind to Emily but asks that she not make any attempt to see her son Jay (James Dennis), whom Albrecht and his wife Rosemary (Martha Henry) have raised since Emily and Lee abandoned the boy on account of their itinerant, wasted lifestyle. In no position to take care of a child anyway, Emily returns to Paris, where she had a career and good contacts in the entertainment industry. Trying hard to stay off the drugs and hold down a job, with uneven success, Emily decides that more than anything she wants to see her son.

Emily is not likeable. She is needy and tenacious. She makes bad decisions. She's not sure if she'd rather have a settled, safe life or be a junkie. But she knows she wants to know her son. Somehow her desire to connect with Jay and her struggle, though not always triumphant, to normalize her life reaches out to the audience. Emily makes things difficult for herself and for those around her. She's not someone I'd want to be around in real life. But she is fascinating and empathetic in this film. Nick Nolte deserves praise as well for his craggy, perceptive grandpa, who is intimidated by children but loves his grandson and reaches out to Emily. The odd cast of characters who are Emily's circle in Paris make an interesting tableau. They are vivid enough to keep us interested in a lot of scenes that are superfluous. Vibrant writing by Olivier Assayas keeps "Clean" from resembling one of those plodding, overbearing "portrait of a junkie" films. In English, French, and occasionally Cantonese with English subtitles.

The DVD (Palm Pictures 2006): Bonus features are 5 interviews plus a theatrical trailer. Olivier Assayas (19 min) discusses (in English) the significance of the film's title, developing the character of Emily, Maggie Cheung's acting style, working with Nick Nolte, and using real musicians in the film. Maggie Cheung (14 min) talks about Emily and how she and Olivier work together. Nick Nolte (7 min) talks about working on French independent film and working with Assayas and cinematographer Eric Gautier. Tricky (4 min), a British musician who has a small role in the film, recounts how he met Assayas. Metric (3 min), the band that appears in the opening scenes, compare making movies to being on tour. Optional English subtitles for the film.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Terrific Performances And A Lack Of Theatrics Make This Addict Drama A Nice Surprise May 13 2007
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
"Addict" films are a dimebag a dozen. Whether alcohol or drug related, portraying someone in need of a fix can be a great way to showcase your acting chops. These films tend to fall into two categories, however. Either the addict leads a desperate life to his/her ultimate demise or there is a revelatory moment where our character decides to reform! "Clean" adheres to these rules, but thwarts them at the same time. In an intriguingly straightforward and unsympathetic narrative, "Clean" presents the story of Emily Wang (played by the great Maggie Cheung). And while Emily's story may not cover new ground, her character is refreshingly believable and flawed. Emily is a mess and "Clean" never asks us to feel sorry for her. I, for one, appreciated the character ambiguity that allowed Cheung to flesh out a remarkably complex role.

Cheung is a former celebrity hoping to reignite the singing career of her husband while harboring her own entertainment aspirations. Their tempestuous relationship is plagued by failure in the music business and a dependency on drugs. Their son is all but forgotten and living with Cheung's in-laws in Canada (led by a restrained Nick Nolte). When tragedy strikes, Cheung's life is stripped away as she faces prison and the possibility of reform. Wanting to reestablish a relationship with her son, Cheung attempts to redefine her place and battles to get and stay clean.

Many "addict" films are fueled by powerful, but often over-the-top, performances. Cheung's portrayal, however, is remarkably understated and much more realistic due to its lack of big showstopping theatrics. This is just a real woman, complicated and not particularly likable, who is trying to put her life back on track. You root for her even as you are aware of her many faults and inadequacies. Interesting and believable, she seems just as likely to doom herself to failure as she is to make the right choices for her life. More intelligent than "smart," Cheung is her own worst enemy--and realizing what is necessary to get her son back is often easier than actually taking the appropriate steps to do so. She and Nolte share some great scenes--filled with both compassion and mistrust in equal measure. And her interactions with her son have a remarkable candor and dignity.

Cheung delivers this astute performance in three languages--Cantonese, French and English--and she is the primary reason to watch "Clean." Taking Best Actress honors at Cannes for this film, she has proven herself to be a dynamic talent. The film is alternately downbeat and hopeful, and it straddles this line adeptly. The film's quiet resonance will stay with you--there is a haunting, lyrical quality to this picture rather than moments of great revelation. Thus, the film remains a complex character study that is grounded in reality. Definitely worth a look! KGHarris, 05/07.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
maggie cheung at her best July 18 2006
By Joseph Bernstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
My review title is a little deceptive-Maggie Cheung is always at her best,even in films which aren't that good-she's made a phenomenal number of films(80 something)in a relatively short span of years and I've never seen her turn in a substandard performance-Clean is well-directed,has excellent cinematography(particularly the early scenes in Hamilton,Ontario),good location shooting and an interesting story that doesn't try to overreach itself by trying to be more than what it appears to be-the effects of irresponsible living on a number of lives-Nick Nolte turns in a terrific sensitive performance which is somewhat different from what he is generally known for(although he reprises a similar mood in The Beautiful Country) and the rest of the cast is competent and believable.Maggie Cheung may well be the most versatile actress in the world-she's played every imaginable role-as much as I admire her I wouldn't recommend that she should make any more films that involve her singing-no one can be talented at everything.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Maggie Cheung really shines in this film. Nov. 12 2006
By Jenny J.J.I. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Reclaiming Life Sept. 26 2006
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Clean is an enjoyable multicultural experience with three languages, a variety of locations (Paris, London, Canada and finally California) and plenty of emotional conflict to keep you intrigued. This is a story of hope in a world where a mother's life spirals out of control as drug addiction attempts to thwart her future happiness.

Maggie Cheung's overwrought performance lends instability to her character's future. As Emily Wang, she excels at sorrowful emotions and hopelessness balanced by a small light of awareness. She has lost everything after her husband dies and her music career seems to be over, due to misconceptions.

Emily progresses through the stages of complete renunciation of cultural norms to a more balanced lifestyle. We watch her soul being born into a new world where she can express her creativity and feel fulfilled as a mother. The story gains a sense of reality through the use of real musicians and especially realistic settings like train stations and even a trip to the zoo.

Nick Nolte gives a sensitive and wise performance as the forgiving father-in-law. He seems to not only look after Emily's young son, but he becomes an angel to his daughter-in-law who struggles to re-establish herself in the world.

If she can turn her life around or give up her addictive lifestyle, she may get what she wants in the end. Her struggle is a profound and moving example of what you have to do to overcome addictive behaviors. In the end, this movie is as much about creating music as it is about creating your life. This is the hero's journey from a female perspective and I truly enjoyed seeing a woman make difficult and life-changing decisions that led to very positive results and life affirming moments.

~The Rebecca Review

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