35 Shots of Rum (35 Rhums)
Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Grégoire Colin, Nicole Dogué, Julieth Mars, Ingrid Caven / Fiction / French
One of the greatest living French directors turns her jeweller’s eye to a tender father-daughter bond.
Breathtaking in its simplicity, sensitivity and insight, 35 Shots of Rum sketches the shifting relationships between single father Lionel (Alex Descas), his teenage daughter Joséphine (MatiDiop), and the friends, neighbours and romantic interests that circle them. This softly stirring human drama permits Claire Denis (Beau Travail; Vendredi Soir; Trouble Every Day) to display her mastery of atmosphere and communication to wholly satisfying effect.
#1/ Friday 26 June, 2009 / 11:32 GMTNot "breathtaking in its simplicity", I would argue excrutiatingly boring. Basically the film showed the minutiae of a regular guy's life (taking a shower, cooking rice, driving a train, repeat, repeat, day after day). Dull to live but beyond dull to watch. If there was a story, I seem to have missed it.
#2 / Saturday 27 June, 2009 / 11:42 GMTIf like me, you’re the kind of person who’s desk is always tidy with everything in the right place, who appreciates clarity and structure, and is in generally on the wrong-end of the societal norm of ‘just go with the flow’, then this film could prove to be quite a challenge.
The first few minutes encapsulate the movie in miniature. We spend the time zipping around a French metro system going nowhere in particular, via a camera attached to the front of various trains, as the timespan unfolds from daylight to darkness. This is intercut with shots of a good-looking chain-smoking bloke in his fifties, watching the subway trains from his motorbike by the side of the tracks. What is he waiting for? What does he look so worried about? Why does he eventually leave? For every answer meted out, another dozen questions take its’ place.
The plot, such as it is, concerns the changing relationship between a beautiful father/daughter combo (which, at times, seemed to me almost incestuous in tone), and their extended family of neighbours. Most ‘stuff’ is left unsaid for the viewer to guess at. Instead we are treated to languid, lingering shots of things like, er, doorways and skin. This is most definitely arthouse territory, with bits of French-ness thrown in.
I stayed for the Q&A after the EIFF premiere, in the hope that the director (Claire Denis) might shed some light on her work, and indeed she did – long, rambling answers that veered all over the place in an entirely inoffensive but generally incoherent way – just like her film really. Nice enough to look at, but not really my cup of thé au lait, even if there had been some in sulky Noe’s fridge. 4/10
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