The eponymous character of Claire’s Camera, played with unusual guilelessness by Isabelle Huppert, wanders from scene to scene like a motivational sprite, striking up conversations with strangers on a whim. As the film’s title suggests, Claire has a Polaroid camera with her, and she has the friendliness of a tourist, which she is—a Parisian on vacation, she’s accompanying a friend who has a movie at the Cannes Film Festival. But Claire also operates as a strange sort of metaphysical force: Throughout the film, she separately runs into and chats with three different people who are embroiled in a simmering love triangle of sorts. Does Claire realize the connection between these new friends of hers? It’s hard to tell.
Claire’s Camera is the 20th film from the South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo, whose work regularly features that vague air of cosmic mystery. Is Claire purposely engineering something by approaching these three mixed-up souls, or should audiences just take the serendipity of these encounters at face value? This director doesn’t nudge the viewer one way or the other. And though this latest project might feel like a trifle (it’s only 69 minutes long and was filmed at Cannes to take advantage of a press appearance Huppert was doing there), it’s also a clear statement of artistic intent. Hong is one of the most exciting directors working right now, but his reputation feels undersung, perhaps because of how light and disposable his movies often seem. In reality, they’re anything but.