Claire Dolan

France/USA 1997

Reviewed by Ken Hollings


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

New York, the present. Calling herself Lucy, Claire Dolan works the hotels as a call girl but gives most of her money to Roland Cain, an old family friend to whom she owes money and who acts as her pimp. When Claire's mother dies in a nursing home, she doesn't inform Cain (although he is paying for the old woman's treatment) and flees to Newark, New Jersey, shortly after the funeral.

Finding work as a beautician, she meets Elton, a divorced cab driver, and they embark on an affair. Cain shows up in Newark and forces Claire back to New York, where he supplies her to his friends for free. Elton follows her and learns the truth about her existence. He gives Claire money to help settle the debt to Cain, but knowing she is a prostitute unsettles him. Elton agrees to her having their baby, but the relationship collapses. Claire, now pregnant, pays off Cain and leaves for Chicago to have the baby and start anew. Several months later, Cain meets Elton on the street, accompanied by his new wife who is happily expecting their first child. They talk as if they were old friends but neither mentions Claire.


Throughout this stylishly austere follow-up to writer/director Lodge Kerrigan's 1993 debut Clean, Shaven, the Manhattan skyline dominates the action with an intrusive, enigmatic presence. Never have its towers and facades looked sexier or more forbidding. From the cool formalism of the title sequence, in which grids of concrete and reflective glass fill the screen, through to the last sidewalk confrontation framed against blocks of impassive concrete, the architecture of New York organises and isolates the human protagonists, arranging them as if they were on display in the panels of some joyless adult comic strip.

The first time we see call girl Claire (played with twitchy wariness by Katrin Cartlidge) she is encased in a rectangular glass phone booth, trading fake intimacies with her clients as she arranges her schedule. Immediately afterwards, she contemplates her image in the interior of a mirror-lined hotel elevator on her way up to an assignation. In the ensuing sex scene, DP Teodoro Maniaci brings echoes of the lush erotic fantasies Helmut Newton created in the late 70s but without their mock-heroic celebration of power and passion. The room's ceiling is oppressively low, while the skyscrapers outside form mute voyeuristic panoramas.

Although Cartlidge manages to signal a great deal from behind Claire's hunted exterior, everything around her is featureless and numb. Sometimes she seems as detached from the film as she is from her nameless succession of partners. Adept at swallowing her fear and facing men down when the need arises, Claire remains visibly intimidated by her pimp Cain, who seems disturbingly aware of everything happening inside her. With the nature of her debt to him and his connection to her family left unexplained, Cain becomes an external manifestation of Claire's inner loathing. That both their names are near anagrams of each other indicates some unspoken link, especially since Clean, Shaven featured a protagonist who heard voices.

Colm Meaney's performance lends a bluff, pinched quality to the mysterious Cain, suggesting a man uninclined to waste his energy on violence when a little gentle persuasion will do. "I've known Claire since she was 12 years old," he hisses at Elton after punching him in the gut, "and I knew then what I know now, that deep inside she's a whore. She was born a whore and she'll die a whore." If the fumbling, unfortunate Elton has little to counter this assertion with, it's because the film's sparse dialogue, fleeting visual clues and Claire's displays of counterfeit emotion for strangers hardly give much more away.

As the curious outsider, Elton acts as a cipher for both the director and the audience, prying into cupboards, flicking through photographs and watching from a distance. Vincent D'Onofrio has less of a character than a series of reactions to work with. This gives the film one voyeur too many, resulting in a loss of narrative focus towards the end. However, it's the lean and eloquent camerawork, capturing a blow job reflected in a television screen or the dark swirl of lights in a road tunnel at night, from which Claire Dolan ultimately derives its taut inner life. With a carefully sculpted soundtrack that blends a haunting, minimalist score with the raw sounds of high-rise city life, Kerrigan's second feature maintains an impressively restrained assault upon the senses.


Lodge Kerrigan
Ann Ruark
Lodge Kerrigan
Director of Photography
Teodoro Maniaci
Kristina Boden
Production Designer
Sharon Lomofsky
Ahrin Mishan
Simon Fisher Turner
©MK2 Productions/
Serene Films, Inc.
Production Companies
Marin Karmitz presents a MK2/Serene production
Production Co-ordinator
Libby Richman
Production Manager
Blair Breard
Location Co-ordinator
Christine Welker
Assistant Directors
John Tyson
Chip Signore
Chris Savage
Script Supervisor
Jessica Lichtner
Avy Kaufman
Julie Lichter
Set Decorator
Susan Ogu
Costume Designer
Laura Jean Shannon
Wardrobe Supervisor
Pamela Kezal
Jorge Nelson
Title Design
Alison Andoos Moving Images
Title Opticals
The Effects House
Optical Effects
Moving Images
Easy Listening Songs
James Bauer
Dave Eggar0
Ahrin Mishan
Matt Sullivan
Music Editor
Daniel Evans Farkas
Music Mixer
Tony Volante
Music Mix Technician
Evan Benjamin
Music Recording Engineer
Peter Robbins
"I'll Never Be the Same" by Gus Kahn, Matty Malneck, Frank Signorelli, performed by Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax), Ernie Royal (trumpet), Eddie Bert (trombone), Joe 'Earl' Knight (piano), Sidney Gross (guitar), Wendell Marshall (bass), Osie Johnson (drums); "A Hundred Years from Today" by Victor Young, Joseph Young, Ned Washington, performed by Jack Teagarden (trombone), Rudy Braff (trumpet), Lucky Thompson (tenor sax), Sol Yaged (clarinet), Sidney Gross (guitar), Kenny Kersey (piano), Milt Hinton (bass), Denzil Best (drums); "Don't Say Nothing at All" by Dinah Washington, Juanita Hill, performed by Dinah Washington; "The Inevitable" by Ari Roland, performed by Ari Roland (bass), Sacha Perry (piano), Chris Byars (tenor sax), Jimmy Lovelace (drums)
Production Sound
Peter Schneider
Kelly Neese
Re-recording Mixer
Skip Lievsay
Supervising Sound Editor
Tom Paul
Marko Costanzo
Clete Ritta
Chris Todd
Stunt Co-ordinators
Blaise Corrigan
Douglas Crosby
Cat Wrangler
Dawn Animal Agency
Katrin Cartlidge
Claire Dolan
Vincent D'Onofrio
Elton Garrett
Colm Meaney
Roland Cain
John Doman
Cain's friend
Maryann Plunkett
Mary Egan
Miranda Stuart Rhyne
Angela, Elton's daughter
Kate Skinner
Madeleine Garrett
David Little
man in Chicago café
Lola Pashalinski
salon client 2
Jim Frangione
man in bar
Ed Hodson
Tom Gilroy
$1000 trick
John Ventimiglia
Newark cab driver
Patrick Husted
Muriel Maida
Claire's mum
Lizabeth Mackay
Svetlana Jovanivich
Madison Arnold
Brenda Thomas Denmark
woman at book stand
Sean Powers
driver's friend
Sally Stark
waitress at Newark diner
Sarah Rose Hendrickson
Siobhan, Mary's daughter
Candy Buckley
salon client 1
Babo Harrison
salon owner
Marian Quinn
woman in park
Missy Yager
Henry Morales-Ballet
Gary Warner
Alan Davidson
man in diner
Dominic Marcus
Newark cab driver
Adrianna Sevan
woman at cab stand
Michael Laurence
Elton's fare
Blaise Corrigan
Mark Zimmerman
Jonathan Smit
Joan Buddenhagen
Bruce MacVittie
not submitted
8,550 feet
95 minutes
Colour by
DuArt Film and Video
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011