Clean review

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Ultra-cool auteur Oliver Assayas changes pace after his fraught cyberthriller Demonlover for a naturalistic redemption tale earthed in the fresh, harried nowhere of post-addiction afterlife.

Clean won Maggie Cheung the Best Actress gong at last year's Cannes, and Assayas has as much admitted that the film is a vehicle for his ex-wife and dream lead-lady. She plays the screwed-up wife of a junkie rocker who, after hubbie fatally ODs, must rebuild her life and win back her son from the in-laws.

There's no gloss or glamour to Assayas' druggie saga, a movie more interested in emotional nuances than crash'n'burn revelry. Cheung oscillates between fragile and fierce for a sensitive, funky performance (not to mention wowing with her English/French fluency) while Assayas rarely misses a beat. Still, for all the insight, authenticity and immediacy, you can't help missing the tempo and dazzle of the Frenchman's more original work.

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