Milford Thomas CLAIRE is a subtle and bewitching work of art in which innocence has the same driving force and emotional impact as the cynical irony of so many contemporary films. This is a silent film made in the 21st century that captures that genre with a startling accuracy and a palpable reverence. Further, it takes advantage of what the glory of silence could do that talkies are hard pressed to equal, much less surpass. Without the barrier of words, silent films are able to speak to the heart with a stunning directness and an intimacy.
Based on a Japanese fairy tale, the film starts with a pair of aging farmers, partners in business and of the heart, whose one sorrow is that they dont have a child. Their wish is granted with the appearance of a mysterious girl child. Asian in appearance with hair like corn silk, she is radiant with her own light, speaks all languages and her tears glow like the moon. When she reads poetry, the words come to life, entrancing her listeners with a kind of spell that the filmmakers recreate with tableaux of fairies, nymphs and other assorted supernatural creatures.
Thomas and company have been meticulous in recreating the aesthetic of filmmaking as it was practiced a century ago. The costumes, sets, and acting styles are preternaturally on target, as is the cinematography, which pairs stunning black and white composition with that glamorous haze that bathed actors in an ethereal luminescence. Even the special effects are true to an era before CGI, yet theyre not only, youll pardon the expression, effective, but they are also perfectly splendid. But visuals would not be enough to make CLAIRE the event that it is. Thomas has hit upon that most elusive quality that early films had. There is an exquisitely unselfconscious sentimentality that speaks to the heart and to the soul with a power that is as magical as the fairy tale it tells. The way the farmers clasp hands to comfort one another in their childless sadness at the start of the film, the way Claire and an admirer exchange shy glances of burgeoning affection, the nudity of a dancing fairy or a group of skinnydippers, all celebrate the love as a force at once erotic and spiritual in its manifestations and with magical powers all its own.
Though silent, CLAIRE deserves an audience beyond fans of that genre. It accomplishes what any great film should by creating indelible characters who are at once larger than life and familiar. More, it has the power to profoundly move its audience and to warm the cockles of all but the very coldest of hearts.