Saint Clara

In an unnamed industrial city in Israel, Eddie (Halil Elohev) and Rosy (Johnny Peterson), junior high vandals who’ve been friends since they were little boys, realize they’re in competition for the affections of Clara (Lucy Dubinchik), a classmate with precognitive ability who’s the pawn in a scam they’ve instigated to ace quizzes (1996). Clara’s mysterious power and wacky family could easily have been the subject of a pretentiously bizarre narrative bereft of meaning and realism, but this story of teenage romance, compulsive rebelliousness, and preapocalyptic anxiety seamlessly integrates its realistic and hyperbolic elements. Directors Ari Folman and Ori Sivan–who based their screenplay on a novel by Pavel Kohout, which is based on a screenplay by Jelena Machinova–seem to know precisely when to go over the top and when to exercise restraint: the ordinary and the fantastic are equally evocative. Even reflexive references, as when the characters go or just talk about going to the movies, consistently find the sweet spot between imperceptible and obligatory, and the cinematic poetry that results is way beyond magical realism. This is a feel-good movie that does much more than just exploit fears of disaster and destruction to heighten the poignancy of a fairy tale–it acknowledges the role of rational pessimism in the human ability to derive joy from existence. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, May 9, 7:00 and 9:00; Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11, 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00; and Monday through Thursday, May 12 through 15, 7:00 and 9:00; 773-281-4114.

–Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited Photo.