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Saint Clara

Ari Folman and Uri Sivan's Saint Clara tells the story of a group of rebellious Israeli middle-schoolers who are unexpectedly blessed by the appearance of a pretty, psychic Russian girl (Lucy Dubinchik) who possesses the ability to give them all the answers to upcoming tests. Dubinchik's eccentric aunt, however, informs her that she will lose her gift the first time she falls in love. The video box to Saint Clara touts it as a cross between David Lynch and John Hughes, but, despite the film's deadpan mixture of teen angst and low-key surrealism, it seems closer in tone and content to the work of Hal Hartley, right down to its slightly dissonant score. At its best, Saint Clara captures the messy, exhilarating queasiness of early adolescence in both literal and metaphorical terms; at its worst, it's just an extraordinarily pretentious teen film. Part of Saint Clara's problem stems from its inconsistency of tone. It starts promisingly enough as a pitch-black anti-authoritarian satire a la The Chocolate War, but it abandons that plot altogether in favor of a tender but slight romance between Dubinchik and a punky young Israeli boy. While both plots have their quirky charms, they don't seem to possess a strong connection to one another, and the film isn't helped by a slack pace that creeps to a halt after about an hour. Still, Saint Clara is a sweet, strange, tender look at adolescence that, despite its faults, is worth a look.

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