35 Shots of Rum
Starring Alex Descas, Mati Diop, and Grégoire Colin. In French with English subtitles. Unrated. Plays Friday to Monday, November 27 to 30, at the Vancity Theatre
No contemporary filmmaker, not even Wim Wenders, has as strong a sense of place as Claire Denis. In the past, most of her chosen locales have been quite exotic (Tahiti, Djibouti), but in 35 Shots of Rum she proves that—with the aid of her habitual cinematographer, Agní¨s Godard—she can make even the northern suburbs of Paris look as enchanted as a shimmering desert or a coral atoll.
Watch the trailer for 35 Shots of Rum.
This is a movie where mood and nuance matter far more than mere physical action. Lionel (Alex Descas) is a middle-aged railroad engineer who lives with his well-educated daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop), in a huge housing complex. Although their relationship is definitely not incestuous, Lionel is uncomfortably aware that their daily routines are growing increasingly like those of husband and wife. Thus, when an orphaned young man (Denis regular Grégoire Colin) takes a shine to Joséphine, this doting father realizes that changes must be made. Denis based the screenplay she cowrote with her usual collaborator, Jean-Pol Fargeau, on a Yasujiro Ozu family drama, and this cultural debt shows to excellent advantage.
35 Shots of Rum is a string of marvellous moments. These beads include a dance sequence with an extraordinary sexual charge between an unexpectedly wide range of people, a coolly observed rolling-stock fatality, and an out-of-left-field reconciliation scene in an unforeseen country.
35 Shots of Rum is, in other words, both a joy and a gem, not to mention a worthy addition to the oeuvre of the best director-cinematographer team of the past 12 years.