Clean (2004): Maggie Cheung Shines as Dramatic Actress in Assayas Drama

In “Clean,” which Olivier Assayas wrote expressly for his then wife, the great Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung, Cheung plays a tough, rich role, a struggling junkie, for which she was rewarded with the Best Actress kudo from the Cannes Film Fest, where the picture received its world premiere to great acclaim.

As expected, the talented filmmaker Assayas offers an uncompromising look at the multi-facets of the addiction process, its seductions, stratagems, self-molating logic, ups and downs.

Cheung plays Emily Wang, the wife and would-be manager of a faded rock star, Lee Hauser (James Cheung). When her husband overdoses, Emily finds herself without money, friends, and facing a prison term. After parole, she hits the road, eventually landing in Paris, where she tries to rebuild her life, step by step.

Slowly and gradually, as Assayas peels away his protagonist’s protective covers, he reveals the human, vulnerable, isolated, and lonely femme beneath the rough and tough façade. Moving in with a close friend, and getting a job as a waitress, Emily begins gaining self-respect, determined to take care of young son, Jay (James Dennis), who has been living with his grandparents (Nick Nolte and Martha Henry).

Winner of Best Actress for Maggie Cheung at the 2004 Cannes Film Fest, “Clean”” was a selection of the 2004 Montréal and Toronto International Film Festivals before getting theatrical release stateside by Strand.

The film was nominated for two Césars: Best Actress for Maggie Cheung and Best Cinematography for Eric Gautier.

Written and directed by: Olivier Assayas
Running time: 110 Minutes