Filmed with antique hand-crank 35 mm camera, with lighting & costuming to match, Claire (2001) is the most authentic-looking silent film of modern times. It truly looks like it could've been made in the 1920s. It's full of fun & fantasy & is an aesthetic delight, with sufficient melancholy to avoid the merely fluffy.
Two rustic whiskery old gentlemen lovers (James Ferguson & Sister Missionary P. Delight) wish they had a child. In the cornfield on their rural farm, they find a baby moon-fairy inside the husk on a cornstalk. Taking her home to care for her, Claire (Polynesian dancer Toniet Gallego) grows to beautiful womanhood in a single night.
Life with her fathers is idyllic. They discover she is naturally educated & even reads French & Latin. When she reads Shelley, a whole fairy world unfolds, & we are treated to the Dance of the Water Fairies.
A beau (Allan Jeffrey Rein) begins to court Claire. His kiss causes her momentarily to become invisible. He later drowns while showing off, & Claire weeps milky tears of shimmering moonlight. Her tears fall upon his lips, bringing him back to life.
Claire as a moon-fairy has an aching longing desire for the night sky & the moon to which she belongs. When the moon-chariot descends for her as sovereign queen of night, her fathers realize the gift of her presence in their lives has been transient.
The story is enhanced by a wonderful soundtrack by Anne Richardson, composing for eleven-piece orchestra.
The Atlanta director lived for some while in Japan. So this fairy tale is loosely based on the extremely well known "Princess Kagayu," the story of an elderly childless couple who find a light-fairy inside a stalk of bamboo.
Milford Thomas has moved the story to the rural south circa 1920, with Cocteau as his primary visual influence. He has achieved a great work of art full of winning beauty. He captures something that feels authentically of a cinematic past.
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