35 Shots of Rum

35 Shots of Rum

DIR: Claire Denis • WRI: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau • PRO: Bruno Pésery • DOP: Agnès Godard • ED: Guy Lecorne • DES: Arnaud de Moleron • CAST: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogue, Gregoire Colin

Claire Denis is one in a long line of women that have been among the first rank of French directors. From Alice Guy-Blaché, through Agnès Varda and Marguerite Duras, to Nelly Kaplan and Diane Kurys, French cinema has continuously provided a space for female directors to bring their artistic merit to the fore. Denis returns to Irish screens this year with 35 Shots of Rum, an affectionate and tender portrait of Lionel (Alex Descas) and his daughter Joséphine (Mati Diop), who are at a transitional stage in their lives.

The film centres on their own particular relationship and that of two neighbours in the same apartment block, whose lives have become intertwined. Though the details of the characters’ lives are never made clear, the film elicits themes of letting go.

As in life, our encounters with these characters are, for the main part, mere glimpses into their lives. The film pulls the viewer into these people’s lives at a particular moment. Rather than spoon-feed a back story and character motivation in an effort to tell a complete story over the course of the film’s duration, Denis rests the camera on how things are, simply as they are, always maintaining a distance from the characters.

The film’s progress is marked by an elliptical naturalness that reflects life’s nature as moments of experience. As such, rather than being the sum of their narrative parts, the characters reveal themselves in subtle ways, culminating in a beautiful dialogue-free scene in a late-night café illuminated by music, when the four characters play out their pasts, presents and futures.

With restrained, affective performances and a beautiful score by Tindersticks, this is probably the only time the experience of 35 shots of rum will leave a sweet taste in your mouth.

Steven Galvin
(See biog here)

35 Shots of Rum is released on 10th July 2009
35 Shots of Rum Official Website

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