Claire Of The Moon

1993, Movie, NR, 107 mins

Review

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In depicting the development of a romantic attraction between two women with contrasting personalities and perspectives, CLAIRE OF THE MOON explores the subject of homosexual conversion. Although the film is intelligent and full of passion, its polemical approach often takes the sizzle out of the story.

Having parted company with her male lover, renowned satirist Claire Jabrowski (Trisha Todd) decides to spend some time at the Arcadia Writers' Retreat, where women authors gather to further their work. Arcadia is situated near the Oregon coast, and upon her arrival, Claire is assigned to share living quarters with Dr. Noel Benedict (Karen Trumbo), a psychiatrist conducting research for her new book on intimacy. Claire meets the other writers, including romance novelist Tara O'Hara and Lynn, a repressed housewife and mother who has published a short story. An orientation is soon held, and Maggie (Faith McDevitt), who runs the retreat with her lesbian partner, tells the guests about the bi-weekly discussion meetings.

Initially, Claire and Noel don't get along because they are so different. Claire is free spirited, disorganized and a smoker, while Noel is brooding, regimented and very tidy. Claire also enjoys going to the local bar, and one evening, she picks up a guy and has a steamy sexual encounter. Noel's disapproval leads to an argument, the first of several. Things begin to change, however, when Noel reveals at one of the meetings that she's a lesbian. This admission piques Claire's interest, and she admires Noel for her courage in speaking out.

As their friendship grows, Claire and Noel discuss topics ranging from pornography to Chopin and also more personal matters. Claire talks about her father's abuse of her mother, and Noel explains her anguish over a failed relationship and how she became a lesbian. In the process, Claire becomes increasingly interested in lesbianism and finds herself having sexual fantasies about Noel, who at one point imagines a similar situation. The two women remain tentative, however, until finally a passionate lovemaking session seems to leave them both feeling content.

CLAIRE OF THE MOON features solid performances by its ensemble cast. In the role of Claire, Todd is particularly effective as an active heterosexual coming to grips with newfound desires, and Trumbo does a good job of portraying Noel. The supporting characters are little more than one-dimensional types, but Caren Graham, as the Southern belle Tara, manages to steal a couple of scenes. Considering the small budget of the production, the film, though sometimes stagy, generally has a nice look. Writer/director Nicole Conn even shows some artistic flair on occasion as evidenced by her handling of the sequence in which Claire and Noel exchange fantasies.

Conn's script frequently engages the characters in debates about social, psychological, and literary issues. While the conversations befit the characters, they are somewhat excessive and tend to slow the pace of the story with somewhat stilted dialogue. To offset these weighty matters, Conn tries to inject some humor into the proceedings as in the case of Tara's barroom lecture on male crotch bulge. This also gives an indication of the film's basic attitude toward men, however, who are represented either as sex objects or as unsympathetic louts with violent tendencies. Perhaps the most gratuitous example of this occurs when Lynn learns that her husband is leaving her because he has grown tired of caring for their kids in the three weeks she has been away.

Lost in the heated passion of the film's final scene is a sense of an ending, for CLAIRE OF THE MOON somehow seems incomplete. Not a word is spoken by the two women after they make love, and consequently we are left to wonder how Claire has been affected by the experience. Possibly this is what Conn intended, but in a film that takes pains to suggest that true intimacy requires meaningful communication, it is odd that the most intimate of physical acts is followed by utter silence. (Extensive nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, profanity.) leave a comment --Lloyd Mayerson

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