Posted by: Sally Ingraham | May 2, 2009

Saint Clara

Starring Lucy Dubinchik

Saint ClaraI tracked down another movie made by Ari Folman, the director of Waltz With Bashir, and it did not disappoint. Saint Clara, made in 1995 and set in a futuristic 1999 Israel, is about a group of clever, hardly controllable junior high students. The new girl, a pretty Russian immigrant with clairvoyant talents, helps mastermind a classroom-wide cheating scheme, allowing everyone to get perfect scores on an algebra test. Interrogations from teacher and principal follows, friendships are lost, the lottery is nearly won, and first love blossoms.

What could be a straightforward story, in the hands of Ari Folman (joined by Ori Sivan as co-director), turns into a playful, crazy ramble through the lives of the people that Clara encounters. The gentle twists and turns of the plot keep you slightly off balance, just enough so that you stay engaged in what is kind of a jumble of events loosely strung together.

These episodes are fascinating by themselves, if somewhat surreal – the math teacher tells a tale about beating Bobby Fisher at a game of chess, the TV is always showing the same bizarrely dressed newswoman reporting on catastrophes, the main group of friends frequently tromps through a swamp to sit on a marooned couch and plot, etc.

Music by Barry Saharov kept things lively, and little visual details continue to keep the film fresh in my mind. I liked it very much, and I am quite curious to find a copy of the book that it is based on, which was written by Czech author Pavel Kohout. Meanwhile, I have one of my co-workers from the theater searching through his ample resources for more of Ari Folman’s work. We’ll see what turns up!

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