Sunday, February 21, 2021

Visions of Clair (1977)

Clair (Annette Haven) is a woman of such beauty, she becomes nearly deified by those around her. Painters attempt to capture her beauty only to find ruin. Ron (John Rolling) is driven to drink and, possibly, suicide. Roahne (Susan Bates) falls into a far off trance envisioning "fornicators" and "tormentors" in modern dance void, worshiping Clair. We're shown how people think of Clair, and how they think she thinks of herself, but are never allowed to see or know Clair herself.

I watched Visions twice and still have no idea how to adequately describe it. I jotted down some notes of films it reminded me of: Barbara Broadcast, Sizzle, and Odyssey. The Love Witch, Zardoz, and Lost Highway. The film has a steady uneasiness, amplified by the avant garde and at times atonal score by Ohm's Law.

Most of the hard core appears in cuts to Roahne's fantasy realm and much of it is zoomed in on to the point of abstraction. Even the sense of reality is thrown into question by Roahne's...friend-with-benefits (I guess?), David (Jay Gamble) saying that he'd heard Clair's father had her institutionalized when she was younger, and Clair's lover Daphne (Bonnie Holliday) begging Clair to send Roahne away saying, "She's not real. You've invented her." Does the title refer to others' visions of Clair, or visions created by (of) Clair? The world may never know!

Director (and presumably writer?), Zachary Strong made Visions of Clair in 1974, but was unable to sell the print until 1977 or 1978. I can imagine distributors or theater owners screening the print and asking, "How the hell can anyone jerk off to that?" It's not that the film isn't erotic, just that the way the eroticism is presented has more in common with an art or European film (I'm fully expecting Robert Rimmer to mention "sophistication") than most other adult features.

Speaking of Rimmer, let's see what he had to say about the film:

My interest in watching over 650 adult films during a period of three years was maintained by discovering, within the conventions (and hence limitations) of the genre, a number of classics of adult filmmaking. This is one.

Right-o, Bob! He goes on to give a brief synopsis, but poses some of the same questions I had: Did [Clair] invent Ron-and Roahne? Is it all figurative, symbolic?

I have (and will surely continue) to hope for restored versions of films that this project exposes me to, but to date Visions of Clair has gone to number one with a bullet on my wishlist, and I'd be hard-pressed to think of a film that could knock it out of the number one spot. Exceptional. CC1.

° Jay Gamble has a very Bobby Astyr-like energy.

° The title is very clearly "Clair" but Annette Haven is credited as "Claire". A mere typo, or a deepening mystery?

° If Susan Bates never dated an at least semi-famous rock star, I'll eat my hat.


On deck:

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