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Clean (2004)

Maggie Cheung , Nick Nolte , Olivier Assayas  |  R |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Maggie Cheung, Nick Nolte, Béatrice Dalle, Jeanne Balibar, Don McKellar
  • Directors: Olivier Assayas
  • Writers: Olivier Assayas
  • Producers: Aline Perry, Daniel Iron, Edouard Weil, Frédéric Sauvagnac, Jane Moore
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Palm Pictures / Umvd
  • DVD Release Date: July 18, 2006
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Shipping: Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S. and to APO/FPO addresses. For APO/FPO shipments, please check with the manufacturer regarding warranty and support issues.
  • ASIN: B000FGG72O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,701 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Clean" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Original soundtrack in English, French, and Cantonese
  • Interviews with director Olivier Assayas, actors Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte, and musicians Tricky and Metric
  • US Theatrical Trailer
  • Previews
  • Weblinks

Editorial Reviews

After the uncharacteristically epic Les Destinées and surprisingly cynical Demonlover, Olivier Assayas got his groove back with the cautiously optimistic Clean. Granted, the globe-trotting tale gets off to a grim start, but the grace notes gradually begin to accumulate. Corkscrew-coiffed Emily (Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung) is the outspoken lover of struggling musician Lee (James Johnston, formerly of Brit band Gallon Drunk). She's also a heroin addict, just like her partner. When he dies from an overdose, she does time for possession, while his Canadian parents, Albrecht (Nick Nolte in a nicely-shaded performance) and Rosemary (Martha Henry), gain custody of son Jay (James Dennis). Upon release, Emily returns to France to find work, stay clean, and earn the right to reclaim her child. Except for Albrecht, no one believes she can pull it off. Worse yet, many hold her responsible for Lee's death. (The echoes of Courtney Love and Yoko Ono can't be coincidental.) A decade has passed since Assayas directed Cheung in the dazzling Irma Vep. Since that time, they married and divorced, but the professional relationship persists, culminating in a Best Actress award at Cannes for a performance that calls for dialogue in English, French, and Cantonese--even some singing. As suggested by the title, Clean is cool and somewhat detached, an effect reinforced by Éric Gautier's crisp cinematography and a soundtrack heavy on early Eno, but it sidesteps the histrionics frequently associated with the recovery film. Featuring Tricky and David Roback (Mazzy Star) as themselves. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars maggie cheung at her best July 18, 2006
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little gem ! May 21, 2007
"Clean" is a striking and touching film that turns around the progressive transformation of woman from Chinese origin, who loses the custody of her own son after his husband (a famous rock star) dies from an overdoses.

The tragedy has several plots, the main hast do with her and her social environment. The initial contact with the fathers of his husband, (superbly performed by Nick Nolte), her decision of living in Paris trying to recover a new life and the enormous internal conflicts respect her previous dependence. On the other hand the implacable opinion of the grandmother of this child who induces him to think she was the real guilty of his father's death, and finally the clever steps made by the grandfather (Nolte) when he has to move to London in order to deal with the future release of three albums of his son.

What it shocks and engages from this picture is the extraordinary, fluid and organic script, the horrid situation she must surmount in order to deserve a minimum of respect before the society, her son and herself.

The suggestive end is arresting suggesting us she won at last the expected possibility to win the custody due the imminence of death of their parents in law.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Story of a Selfish Junkie Who Becomes a Selfless Artist (with lots...
In Irma Vep (1996) Assayas explored the film industry, in Late August/Early September (1998) he explored literary culture, and in Demonlover (2002) he explored the adult... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Doug Anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars Actually it deserves 3.5, NOT 3
Nick Nolte was superb as a grandpa with his hands full of life's issues. However, the story was too mundane for me. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Kafishna
4.0 out of 5 stars Avoids the cliches of drug films, and Nolte is terrific
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. Read more
Published on June 20, 2011 by K. Gordon
2.0 out of 5 stars Over Rated
The writing is bad or something. I am lost. I feel cheated. I can't get any emotional connection to this movie. Read more
Published on January 16, 2010 by bz
5.0 out of 5 stars Cleaning the wound...
For a film as crisp and `clean' as `Clean', there is an air of dirt that never seems to leave the audience. Read more
Published on January 7, 2010 by Andrew Ellington
4.0 out of 5 stars Small Gem with Great Performances
Olivier Assayas's Clean is one of those small independant films that deserves a wide audience. Clean is the story of Emily Wang (Maggie Cheung) a junkie who may or may not have... Read more
Published on December 22, 2008 by Bryan A. Pfleeger
5.0 out of 5 stars Clean delivers.
Director Assayas had a clear vision in mind for this story and delivers it with excellent performances by Maggie Chung and Nick Nolte. Read more
Published on April 21, 2008 by Tim Boxell
5.0 out of 5 stars People Can Change
Maggie Cheung's character Emily Wang, has just about hit bottom. Things couldn't get much worse, as she bounces from the kindness of one acquaintance to the next. Read more
Published on March 27, 2008 by Chasmodai
4.0 out of 5 stars 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... Read more
Published on November 12, 2006 by Jenny J.J.I.
5.0 out of 5 stars For the love of a boy...
Maggie Cheung delivers a knock down stand out performance as Emily Wang in `Clean', a brilliant film that exposes the changes one will make for the sake of a child. Read more
Published on October 13, 2006 by Damian Gunn
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