September 1, 2008

Venice and Toronto. 35 Shots of Rum.

Claire Denis's 35 Shots of Rum "is like a dance, like an atmospheric manifestation, like an epic chanting in which stylization plays out in the vibrant presence of bodies, voices, silences, music and sounds," writes Jean-Michel Frodon in a journal entry for Cahiers du cinéma.

35 Shots of Rum

"Floating around Alex Descas, who is magnetically attractive, are sensations, desires and fears, in a mobility that is heightened by the incessant comings and goings and criss-crossings by trains, motorbikes, taxis and the metro in a wintry Paris setting."

"The warmth radiating from 35 Shots of Rum, smoother than the finest liquor, reminds viewers how rarely movies capture the easygoing love embodied in a functional family, with all its support and tenderness," writes Jay Weissberg in Variety. "Claire Denis's latest may appear whisper-thin on the surface, yet it's marvelously profound, illuminating the love between a father and daughter but also highlighting the difficulty of relinquishing what most people spend a lifetime putting into place. This moving work, inexplicably outside Venice's competition lineup, will need critical support to facilitate arthouse pickup."

"Nothing much happens here," notes Dan Fainaru in Screen Daily. "What makes this all so distinctive is Denis refusal to resort to stereotypes. This Parisian suburb isn't the usual immigrant enclave steeped in crime, racism, poverty, unemployment and drugs. These are people leading normal lives, living in grey buildings where the elevators work, the corridors are clean and the flats well tended. It is probably the first time that these hostile surroundings have looked not only habitable but somewhere where warm, human social intercourse takes place."

"An excellent cast fills in the blanks of the slight storyline, making more narrative superfluous," writes Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter. "It is almost a shock when, toward the end, something out of the ordinary happens."

Next stop: Toronto.

Update: Shane Danielsen at indieWIRE: "Her finest piece of work since 1999's superb Beau Travail, it seemed like nothing so much as her version of a late Ozu, a latter-day response to Equinox Flower and Late Spring - and like those films, it's about the bonds of family, and people being kind and desiring the best, for themselves and for each other. Yet it's no mere homage; rather, it's imbued with Denis's own, unmistakeable sensibility, the patient and watchful eye that disinguished earlier Paris-set masterpieces like I Can't Sleep and Friday Night."

Updates, 9/5: "Like all of her films, this one confounds me in a good way," writes Robert Davis. "I have to learn how to watch each one, which is why a second viewing is so important.... But what put a surprised smile on my face was discovering that 35 Rhums is a strong homage, almost even a remake, of one of my favorite films of all time."

"At times, 35 Rhums is so subtle and allusive that it dissipates into thin air; a colleague wasn't sure whether the penultimate scene took place at a wedding or a funeral," blogs the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "But it's also strangely moving and, in its wordless way, conveys the bone-deep intimacy that comes from living with someone you love."

"Denis is one of my favorite living directors, period," declares Salon's Trouble Every Day, the one-night-stand Parisian lovers of Friday Night, the ode to male beauty that rings out through the images in Beau Travail - Denis gives us crazy old Beatrice Dalle, cackling as she drives a team of sled dogs in L'Intrus, and all bets are off." 35 Rhums "is a picture about the pleasures of making a home and also about knowing when it's time to leave it - though by the end, when we find out what the movie's title means, Denis suggests the real home you've made is always is in your heart."

Updates, 9/8: This is Denis's "melancholic ode to recompense and reconciliation in the face of irretrievable loss," writes Michael Guillén. "Love ultimately shines forth; a cause for celebration and a toast of 35 rums."

Denis "has a pure, elliptical quality that transcends the page, as if she's flying without a screenplay. Denis's last feature, The Intruder, pushed that elliptical style into out-and-out incoherence, but she finds her footing beautifully with 35 Shots of Rum, which is grounded a bit more in nuts-and-bolts character work than usual," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club.

Updates, 9/9: "Fluid, incisive and quietly devastating," blogs Fernando F Croce for Slant.

"[T]he work you put into it early on is paid back in surprisingly tender dividends," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog. "Much of the film plays like a mystery, as we slowly piece together the roots of each relationship and figure out along with the characters where they're going and what kind of change they'll have to endure to get there."

Update, 9/13: "While the extremity of L'Intrus' elliptical flow pushed the film's form in a particularly challenging direction, 35 Rhums' tighter plot and tidier focus on a small family and their small group of friends is no less fluid," writes Daniel Kasman in the Auteurs' Notebook. "Like all of Denis's films at least since 1994's US Gone Home, her gliding, off-hand impressionism weighs and considers the importance of character sensibilities and the flow of connection and disconnection between cross-cultural consciousnesses."

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Posted by dwhudson at September 1, 2008 12:23 PM


Sounds lovely... a real antidote to so much busy, gimmicky, over-plotted (TV-inflected) mush out there. Most of the most inspiring and intelligent work these days is being done by directors in their 60s and 70s... those cranky, unbowed rebel-saints. Minus Harmony Corinne (for whom I hold out very high hopes), it's hard for me to get excited about what I'm seeing by the younger generations of *known* directors, so many of whom are half-baked or ball-less or sell-outs. The closed circle of mainstream showbiz (which includes at least 80% of so-called "Indie" film) is a tired illusion of the fair-to-middling lauding itself. There's young brilliance out there we aren't seeing simply because the brilliants aren't playing the game.

Apropos of which: here's a tip about an "unknown": Miraz Bezar is in post-production with a gem of a feature. The shorts you will be led to if you Google his name don't give an accurate indication of how fresh this film is. May it break through!

Posted by: Steven Augustine at September 2, 2008 3:09 AM

Denis is a creator of devastating masterpieces. I'm still haunted by Trouble Every Day. The Intruder was less troubling but no less hopeless. The question is: can I handle watching her films? This one is intriguing. Hopefully, more Dostoevsky, less Houellebecq.

Posted by: Jon at September 2, 2008 9:57 AM