It’s Clairevoyant with Claire! Claire, the astral airhead, the nag champa nitwit, the buffoon bodhisattva! Claire wants to become one with the laughter of the cosmos, and she is taking you with her by making a documentary of her journey to enlightenment. Only thing is she is a mystical moron, a spiritual space cadet, an overprivileged unstable pinball careening through the lotus lanes in La-La Land. Like Maine humorist, Tim Sample, said, Claire not only doesn’t know nothing, she doesn’t even suspect nothing. This is a metaphysical mockumentary, a spiritual Spinal Tap. And isn’t all just lovely, with Clairevoyant being one of the nicest surprises so far this year. Not that Clairevoyant gets a free ride, not right away.
The first few minutes opens with Claire, played by co-director, co-writer, and editor Micaela Wittman, stumbling around trying to start her documentary, are met with great skepticism. Who is this twit? Are we going to spend a whole feature with this creature? Surely this poor woman isn’t going to try to carry the entire picture herself? This can’t work, not for 90 minutes. These worries evaporate three minutes in. Once Claire starts talking about her rich kid safety net, it is some of the funniest oblivious rich people who joke this side of Schitt’s Creek. Then as she starts interviewing people about spirituality, you realize Claire knows absolutely nothing about the subject she is tackling. You will not believe some of the s**t that starts coming out of her mouth. 15 minutes in, when Claire asks the cameraman for footage of a recycling bin with the genuine Asian writing and then points to a blue mailbox with graffiti tags, you are hooked. Claire’s ignorance of everything she knows about perfectly satirizes the fad metaphysics scene that Los Angeles is so identified with. Claire goes from one mystical teacher to another, asking the dumbest damn questions imaginable and coming out with less than a clue than before. Co-director, co-writer, and cameraman Arthur Diennet plays Earl, the hired documentarian and straight man in the picture—an Abbott to Claire’s Costello, politely correcting some of Claire’s mistakes, which more often than not lead to meltdowns.
“…stumbling around trying to start her documentary, are met with great skepticism. Who is this twit?“
Micaela Wittman’s comic timing as Claire is stunning, as are her chops as an editor. She not only knows when a look or reaction is funnier than a spoken joke, but she knows right when to drop those looks in the cut and how long to hold for max tee-hee. Her conception of Claire as a complete character is impressive as well. Claire may be an idiot, but she is a flesh and blood idiot with heavy anxiety. Like Claire says, if she acted like she really felt, she would smile 50% less. Wittman’s strategy of playing Claire completely seriously instead of broad brings it up from a punching bag dance to an actual chance for self-reflection. The dramatic parts where we see Claire’s repressed depression are completely believable and touching. You really feel for the dipshit. Excellent job with the actors playing the various gurus, yoga instructors, and clergy, as there was more than one time you may catch yourself wondering if they are real interview subjects like in a stunt movie. Anne Scottlin, in particular, completely fools you as the church lady, and Emily Vere Nicoll is completely buyable as well as a riot as the spiritual life coach, Bliss.
The movie is able to keep the balls in the air throughout with the comedy of grasping for happiness with the dramatics of the painful reasons behind that grasping. Then in the third act, the filmmakers start employing some of that old underground film magic, when Claire in a headdress is complaining about her mother while traveling through a car wash. The unrealness of the lighting and costumes, along with the dirt cheap and very potent soap on windows visuals, brings an opiate-like feel to the proceedings. This flows into the drug finale that employs full-blown Kenneth Anger management. The film turns homage to the underground movies of yesteryear, where crazies with no money would achieve transcendence through costumes, light, and imagination. The trip sequence is a perfect example of W.W.J.S.D: What Would Jack Smith Do? Like that amazing underground filmmaker, Claire engages in her own private Blonde Cobra with a showstopper of a chemical-friendly finish. Clairevoyant is the perfect movie to consume marijuana edibles, too, as the effects would kick in simultaneously the awe-inspiring visuals occur.
Clairevoyant delivers what Ram Dass once described as the cosmic giggle. It is a fine specimen of what can be done in the no-budget arena with some classic underground movie techniques that add production value out of nowhere. The talent behind the endeavor blasts through over and over, with wit and craft. It also balances the spoofing of the subject with genuine respect for elevation of consciousness. So tune in, turn on, Claire out.
"…keep the balls in the air...grasping for happiness..."