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Kino on Video presents
Saint Clara (1996)

"Do you think I can make things happen or just see them coming?"
- Clara (Lucy Dubinchik)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: January 14, 2008

Stars: Lucy Dubinchik, Halil Elohev, Johnny Peterson
Other Stars: Maya Maron, Maya De-Fries, Tal Feigenboim, Yigal Naor
Director: Ari Folman, Ori Sivan

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for language, violence, adult themes
Run Time: 01h:24m:25s
Release Date: December 18, 2007
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BC+C- D-

DVD Review

The Israeli film Saint Clara, previously released by Kino on videotape, makes its digital debut with a no frills DVD. An off-kilter film, it takes a different spin on the teen romance by weaving mental powers into the mix of teen alienation and love affairs. The performances and technical details may occasionally wobble, but this is certainly worth a look if you're in the mood for something a little different.

The film opens with friends Eddie (Halil Elohev) and Rosy (Johnny Peterson) popping some pills before heading into school. What awaits them is interrogation. It seems the entire class has managed to pull perfect scores on the math exam, even finishing the problems in the exact same way. This assault on the system will not stand, and principal Tissona's (Yigal Naor) browbeating and cajoling finally gets an answer: Clara. Clara (Lucy Dubinchik), a Russian immigrant, possesses the ability to foresee events, and this throws the students and staff (all two of them we see) into a uproar. But how long can Clara's power last? Until she falls in love, apparently...

Saint Clara is an odd film; it's billed as a mix of influences, the jacket copy referencing David Lynch and John Hughes, and I suppose that isn't too far off the mark. The film is hurt a bit by its relative poverty in comparison to bigger budgeted projects, as it simply looks cheap at times, unless Israel simply looks that way. There is a lack of "real world feel" that sticks out at times; it feels as if the characters are often within a vacuum. The acting is hit-or-miss; Dubinchik often seems fairly vacant, leaving us to try and read things into her facial expressions that may or may not be there. The script leaves the other characters to play off of her, rather than giving her much to do, however. Her character's emotional state, even at the end when she should be slightly livelier, doesn't rise above placidity. As the two bad boys, Elohev and Peterson have much more to do, and they generally carry it off well.

In some ways, the film doesn't seem able to decide what it wants to be; there are moments that are simply weird (a surreal incident involving a bird crashing into the classroom) or creepy (Tissona getting a little too interested in a female student), mixed with more a mundane love story. Clara's family come across as otherworldly in their general behavior, and an attempt to burn down the school (via the burning of a Golda Meir statue) feels like tacked on political comment where the story doesn't need it. I could be completely misreading that, as there are occasional elements that feel like you need to belong to this milieu to really get it. I do have to wonder if Israeli cinemas are so far behind the times as to be playing Raise the Titanic!, as the one we see here. That's just one more strange occurrence in a film filled with them.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original full frame transfer, Saint Clara isn't going to wow anyone with its transfer here, looking a bit soft. Colors aren't bad though, and the optional English subtitles are clean and readable.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Hebrewno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 2.0 track (in Hebrew with brief smatterings of other tongues) is the worst thing about the disc, filled with low hiss and crackling. Dialogue is always audible, but the hiss is a definite distraction.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. stills gallery
Extras Review: A brief stills gallery is it. Nothing special here.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A decent little teenage love story, with enough quirkiness to set it apart from the pack. Kino's DVD doesn't especially impress, with a dull transfer that suffers from a hissy soundtrack.


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