Picture Claire (2001) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Picture Claire (2001) is a thriller which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and is now available on video.

It stars Juliette Lewis as a woman from Quebec who informs on some heroin dealers. They retaliate by torching her apartment. Fearful for her life, and in need of refuge, she remembers a Toronto photographer that she had an earlier affair with, who told her to come see him in Toronto. Speaking only French, she experiences difficulties on the way, but she eventually finds his neighborhood, and discovers that he took pictures of her in her sleep, even though he knew that she hates having her picture taken. He now has an exhibition of his work opening, and it seems to consist mostly of pictures of her.


Juliette Lewis shows a breast, and has good pokies.

Camilla Rutherford, as the girl friend of the photographer, does a lengthy full frontal.

Meanwhile, Gina Gershon, as one of the bad guys, shows up in a donut shop to meet another criminal and exchange some diamonds she smuggled into the country for promised cash. When she realizes that he is not going to pay her, she kills him then and there, and leaves. Unfortunately for both women, Lewis was in the restroom when the killing happened, had previously argued with the victim, and the owner (and only witness) fingers her rather than Gershon.

DVD info from Amazon

  • bare bones DVD: no widescreen, no features

Ultimately the crooks are after Gershon, the police and Gershon are after Claire, and nobody understands how anyone else really fits into the picture.

They chose to use a lot of split screen effects, which I found distracting, but it was otherwise an entertaining yarn.

Scoop's notes in yellow:

Although it premiered at the Toronto festival, it's not really what you would think of as typical Film Festival fare, because it is pretty much of a gimmicky, coincidence-driven formula Hollywood thriller (even if it was filmed in Toronto by Canadians). Film festivals usuallly like more personal or "cutting edge" material.

Juliette Lewis plays a woman from Quebec who got in deep trouble with some vengeful heroin dealers. She fled to Toronto, hoping to find refuge with a photographer with whom she had an earlier affair. Within a short time of her arrival in Toronto, she became a suspect in a criminal investigation involving a murder and some stolen diamonds.

The plot depends on a lot of coincidences. In a restaurant, Juliette Lewis got into a small tiff with a baddie (Mickey Rourke!). She headed to the public bathroom, and while she was there the criminal tough girl (Gina Gershon) killed the baddie in an argument over diamonds. The storekeeper, never having seen Gershon, but having seen Lewis and Rourke squabbling earlier, identified Lewis as the only possible suspect. OK, all plots have to begin somewhere, so that was a reasonable coincidence to jump-start the film, and some credibility might have been maintained if the plot had then anchored itself in reality.

It did not.

The script kept layering in additional coincidences, and the subsequent developments were not so believable. At one point, Lewis hid on a balcony watching her photographer have sex with his girlfriend. When she realized that the lovers were going to step out onto that very balcony, Lewis avoided detection by dropping to the next lower balcony and breaking into the apartment beneath.

Guess who lived there?

  • You get a 100% if you guessed Gershon, the very woman who committed the crime Lewis was being accused of.

While she was in the apartment, the innocent Lewis decided to rip off Gershon's purse. Fair enough. After all, she was in an unfamiliar city with no money, and she was starving, so that much made sense.

But guess what was in that purse?

  • Again, you're acing your SAT in Plot Conveniences if you guessed the missing diamonds. At that point, she was the only suspect pursued by the police, and she had managed to accidentally pick up evidence after the fact which proved she committed a crime she did not commit but was accused of! Even that might not have been so far-fetched if she had actually been seeking out Gershon for some reason related to the crime, but she acquired the damning evidence by robbing an apartment she dropped into at random! She wouldn't have been there at all if the guy one floor above had not decided to use the balcony! You tell me the odds of that happening in a city the size of Toronto.

There were a few more such contrivances before the film was over, until I felt that the writer was really stretching my credulity to the breaking point.

Not only was the plot strained, but the film was a bit heavy on technique, to the point where it sometimes went past creativity and became gimmickry. Let's talk about split screens. Since Juliette Lewis plays a character who can't speak English, she is constantly in a fog about the criminal plot which is spinning around her. People come up to her and ask for something in a language she can't understand. People shoot at her and she doesn't know why. The film often uses multiple simultaneous images to picture what she expects to happen on one side of the screen, with reality shown on the other side.

You know what? I think I'm misleading you. Those comments make it sound like I hated the film, but that isn't true. Some things about it were irritating, and it isn't exactly Rear Window, but the truth is that I found it to be an easy watch. I relaxed, watched it through, and never thought about the fast forward button. I liked Lewis and Gershon and I really enjoyed the way Mickey Rourke growled through his small role. It's not a bad little noir if you ignore the implausibility angle.

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.8/10 (this is based on only 37 votes). The six women who reviewed it scored it 9.6/10! I suppose the score will eventually settle in between 5.5  and 6.5.
  • Shown at Toronto in September 2001, it found no theatrical distributor and went to home media about a year and a half later.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "this is a solid C, a satisfactory thriller with action, plot twists, and naked women". Scoop says, "I guess I would agree with that C if there was something more to the DVD than a bare-bones full screen version. As it stands, it is a barely watchable thriller with nothing special in terms of original characters or concepts, with no additional features nor theatrical aspect ratio. C-"

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