Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogué, Grégoire Colin, Jean-Christophe Folly, Djédjé Apali, Eriq Ebouaney, Ingrid Caven, Stéphane Pocrain, Julieth Mars Toussaint, Adèle Ado, Mary Pie, Cheikh Toure, David Saada, Mario Canonge
Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Directed by: Claire Denis
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 100
Date: 09/05/2008

35 Shots of Rum (2009)

4 Stars (out of 4)

'Rum' Kind of Wonderful

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Following her baffling, free-flowing, poetic epic masterpiece L'Intrus (The Intruder), Claire Denis returns with a relatively simpler, more narrative-based feature, though without sacrificing any of her unique flow. 35 Shots of Rum focuses on a community of mostly non-white Parisians, friends, relations, former and current lovers and colleagues.

Lionel (Alex Descas) is a train engineer and lives with his beautiful, grown daughter Jo (Mati Diop). They don't speak very often, but they share an obviously tender relationship full of hugs and kisses on the cheek. Near the film's beginning, Jo buys herself a rice cooker, and Lionel coincidentally brings one home as well. Jo opens her father's and cooks rice, keeping her own in the package.

We meet other characters as well, such as a taxi driving neighbor, Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue), who may be a former flame of Lionel's; the mysterious, withdrawn Noe (Grégoire Colin), who may be carrying a torch for Jo; and some of Lionel's co-workers, including the retiring, depressed René (Julieth Mars Toussaint).

Of course, Denis never explains any of these relationships outright; sometimes she plants little seeds of knowledge and other times we just follow dreamily, hooked on glances and exchanges rather than facts. There's more than just a hint of Ozu here as well, with the images of trains as well as the relationship between a single father and a grown daughter, as seen in Late Spring (1949) and a good many other Ozu pictures. Denis's rhythms are perfect for an Ozu tribute; she's more about the acceptance of everyday moments than she is about achieving goals.

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