(Air Date: Week Of 3/12/97)
At the beginning of Israeli filmakers Ari Folman and Ori Sivan's "Saint Clara", all is not well at Golda Meir Junior High. Test scores have suddenly become perfect. Way too perfect. As their teacher puts it, "Aren't you guys smart enough to make a few mistakes so we won't catch on that you're cheating?" Apparently not. This student body needs pills to get through their days Their teacher is shell shocked from his tour of duty in Vietnam as a chess champion, and their principal, a man given to interesting sartorial choices, is convinced Edith Piaf wrote a song just for him.
An investigation, done in the best "Twin Peaks" meets "Dragnet" style, discovers that the class didn't cheat. Exactly. Instead, one student, Clara, divined the questions using clairvoyance and shared them out.
Suddenly, Clara, a 13 year old with strange violet eyes, becomes the stuff that dreams are made on for everyone in her orbit. Clara, on the other hand, is not terribly interested in predicting the future. She doesn't think the future as interesting as the past, and chocolate has them both beat. The fact that falling in love with her classmate, Eddie, will put an end to her sixth-sense bothers her not a whit. Is this because, or in spite of, the possibility that she isn't just predicting the future, but actually causing it?
This is slacker surrealism, sabra-style. A low-key world where tv reports on the impending ecological apocalypse twenty- four hours a day and kids hang out on a sofa, knee deep in a swamp. Where Marilyn Monroe inspired the Richter scale. And where love is the light of life, even if it does inspire salmon-like behavior. The humor is dead-pan, the insights about power are sly, and the surprises, like the characters, come from way deep in left field.
Lucy Dubinchick as Clara, is perhaps the most composed and serene 14-year-old I've ever seen. You never doubt for a moment that her classmates believe that she lives in two different worlds, and only visits this one with good reason.
We all know that life and especially love can be o so very strange. "Saint Clara"'s off-kilter musings on both subjects make it a shiny, dark, irresistable gem. For Movie Magazine, I'm Andrea Chase.
Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase
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