35 Shots of Rum (12A)
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Time Out says
Tue Jul 7 2009French director Claire Denis’s marvellous latest feature is a portrait of the close relationship between widowed Parisian train driver Lionel (Alex Descas) and his affectionate student daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop). Critics have welcomed it as both her warmest movie and, with its quiet observation of small ritual, her most affirmative and Ozu-esque. But though it’s true that ‘35 Shots’ demonstrates an extraordinary reflective ease and contains possibly more hugs and smiles than Denis’s entire oeuvre to date, that is not to say it is a film free of tribulations, tensions and taboos.
The story is simple, a collection of scenes from the life of this small family who live in a flat in the Rue de la Guadeloupe, a little nest where Lionel escapes from the loneliness of his cab and the memory of his losses, and from which Joséphine, inhibited from fullly developing her relationships with her neighbours, surrogate ‘mother’ Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) and ‘suitor’ Noé (Grégoire Colin), must soon fly.
From this, Denis magically evokes a liberal meditation on family, harmony, loyalty and belonging and their corollaries – loss, transgression, loneliness and separation – and achieves a sweet unity, not least through a beautifully discreet use of symbols, motifs and metaphors. Thus as cinematographer Agnès Godard’s artful visual correspondences (an RER train and a block of flats shot at night) deepen an understanding of social context, the film’s various vehicles – Lionel’s train thundering into north Paris, his motorbike, the bicycle blocking the hallway – suggest not only specifics of occupation or class, but also journeys of different speeds. The film’s extraordinary economy is typified by a lovely, spontaneous café scene where the principles dance to the Commodores’ ‘Nightshift’, a mini-ballet touchingly evocative of their separate feelings, relationships and destinies.
Author: Wally Hammond