35 Rhums (France/Germany; 100 min.)

directed by: Claire Denis
starring: Grégoire Colin; Alex Descas; Mati Diop; Nicole Dogue
35 Rhums

Beth Curran says: "Michael will be very happy. So far (end of Day 4) this is my favorite film of the festival. It's a character study, a few days or so in the lives of a father and adult daughter as they go about their daily lives in Paris. He is a subway driver, she is a student - he has raised her as a single parent, with the help of neighbor friends in their building. I can't say enough about the two leads, Alex Descas and Mati Diop, whose dynamic together was astonishingly palpable - at times it felt like the camera truly was just spying on a real single-parent/only child relationship.The supporting cast is uniformly fabulous, of course it's Denis so the visuals are evocative and striking - nut that I am I adored the wonderful shots she got of the Paris rail system. During the Q&A she mentioned that this was kind of her homage to Ozu - which made me appreciate even more the framing and cinematography of her interior scenes. Images are still staying with me, two days after seeing this - it's definitely a must-see if you get the chance. 5 cats"

Bruce says: "Claire Denis set out to make a homage to Ozu’s LATE SPRING, a story particularly close to her and her mother as Denis’ grandfather raised her mother as does the father raise his daughter in LATE SPRING.  Denis saw Hou Hsaio-Hsien’s Ozu tribute, CAFÉ LUMIÈRE at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004 and became inspired. 

"Lionel (Alex Descas), a conductor on a commuter train, is raising his daughter Joséphine (Mati Diop).  How long this has been going on we do not know.  Joséphine is a beautiful young woman at the age where most girls start taking their romances seriously.  Not Joséphine.  She is happy to devote most of her spare time to her father, whom she adores.  Lionel, too, seems satisfied with their relationship although experience tells him that he needs to let go.  They are very close to a couple of people who are living in the same apartment building: Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue), a taxi driver who has an obvious crush on Lionel, and to Noé (Grégoire Colin), a handsome young man living in the penthouse.   The foursome are on their way to a concert one rainy night when their car breaks down.  They take refuge in a café where Noé makes advances towards Joséphine who appears interested yet holds back.   Lionel, in a delicious cinematic moment, locks eyes with the bar owner.  It is late in the next day before Lionel returns home.

"Rene, a fellow worker of Lionel’s, is retiring and there is a party for him.  Rene has no interests and no future without his job.  His despair contrasts with Lionel’s love of life, search for knowledge and personal fulfillment.  As in LATE SPRING, Lionel and Joséphine take one last trip together, a visit to Joséphine’s grandmother in Germany.  When Noé’s cat dies, he decides that there is no reason to stay in Paris.  There is little time for Joséphine to make some  important decisions about her life. 

"The dialogue in 35 SHOTS OF RHUM is sparse; explanations and history are revealed to the viewer slowly.   As in her former films Denis allows her long-time collaborator, director of photography Agnès Godard to share in the storytelling.  Godard captures the telltale moments of the film beautifully.   The ensemble acting is a joy to experience.  Alex Descas’ performance as the taciturn father is particularly remarkable.  Based on this performance I would gladly see any film he is in.  Grégoire Colin (FRIDAY NIGHT, BEAU TRAVAIL, L’INTRUS, SEX IS COMEDY) is always an engaging screen presence and seems to work exceptionally well with female directors.  Mati Diop makes a delightful film debut.  It is great seeing Ingrid Caven, veteran of at least a dozen Fassbinder films, still at work.   4 cats  

"(35 SHOTS OF RHUM screened as part of the Rendezvous with French Cinema festival sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.)


Jason says: "I had an odd experience reading the description in the theater's program for 35 SHOTS (that's the subtitle that appeared on the print; the poster adds OF RUM, probably a better translation of French title 35 RHUMS) after viewing the movie.  I wouldn't so much say it was inaccurate, even though it didn't really match what I saw.  Claire Denis expects the audience to fill in many blanks.

"So, let us start with the bare facts.  Lionel (Alex Descas) drives a train in the Paris Metro; his friend and co-worker, René (Juliet Mars Toussaint) is retiring.  Lionel lives in an apartment with his daughter Joséphine (Mati Diop).  Also living in the same building are Noé (Grégoire Colin) - Lionel and Joséphine look in on his cat during his frequent overseas trips - and Gabrielle (Nicole Dogué), a taxicab driver who is friends with all of them.  Jo has recently caught the eye of Ruben (Jean-Christophe Folly), a fellow student at her University.

"All, other than Noé, are black, although that does not appear to be significant.  Or is it?  Here, we must start to piece together interpretations, based on what we see of the characters, as Denis is very seldom going to have the characters simply come out and state how they feel about each other, or fully articulate their history.  They say enough to indicate that there is plenty of history in some instances, and most audience members will extrapolate a roughly similar chain of events.  You have to pay attention, is all.

"Which can, admittedly, be tricky.  Denis and co-writer Jean-Pol Fargeau do not overburden the film with a great deal of plot or dialogue.  This is the sort of film that spends a great deal of time on following its characters as they go about everyday tasks:  Lionel quietly drives his train, or he and Joséphine prepare dinner.  Noé talks in vague terms about a new job.  The two scenes that serve as the film's turning point are extremely low key - a scene in a bar is full of people pointedly not talking to each other, while the next finishes with a reaction to something that has happened off-screen.  As someone who tends to like more active movies, I fully sympathize with anybody who loses patience here.

"Fortunately, star Alex Descas is excellent at not saying anything.  There is something occasionally rather cold about his Lionel; especially in his dealings with Gabrielle, he can seem quietly cruel.  But there's also a warmth in his scenes with Mati Diop that rings very true - not demonstrative all the time, and they can get angry at each other, but something about his rugged, worn face lightens.

"Diop is a good complement for him in that regard; though she mirrors some of Lionel's somewhat defensive attitude, Joséphine seems a bit more comfortable with the world around her, and also slips into the position of being daddy's girl without being immature or selfish.  It's easy to imagine a background in which Lionel is an immigrant who will never be as at-home in Paris as his daughter.  Dogué and Colin, as well as Toussaint and Folly, play characters that we know mainly through their relationships to Lionel and Joséphine, but make them much more complete than plot devices.

"Denis and company bring them together in interesting ways.  With the dialogue relatively low, the environments play an important part.  Compare the tidy apartment Lionel and Joséphine share to that of Noé, for example.  Examine the plentiful shots of railroad tracks; on the one hand, they indicate constraints, but the complexity of the network suggests the opposite.  Note how Agnès Godard's camera lingers over a location late in the film, how different it is from where we've spent most of our time.

"What does all this mean?  That's up to the audience, to a certain extent - this is the sort of film where how much you take from it is tied to what you bring and how much effort you make.  I've got my ideas, and they appear to be different from those of the person who wrote the program.  But that's okay; it makes the film an enjoyable one to talk about. 4 cats

"Seen 2 November 2009 at Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run)"


Betsy says: "I enjoyed 35 SHOTS very much. I knew beforehand that it was Denis's homage to Ozu and his LATE SPRING, so I think I came to it from a different perspective. The plot has been summed up by Jay so I won't repeat it (see his very interesting review above!) For me, the movie is about transitions in life and the delicate balance we all must achieve in order to openly  move forward and not get stuck, while honoring previous attachments all the same.

"Lionel ( a very magnetic Alex Descas,)  the father,  is a mass transit driver. He drives back and forth through the city of Paris the same way he seems to vacillate in his life -  smoothly and with a lot of cool.  In contrast, Rene, Lionel's  friend, recently retired,  is completely lost when his work life is over, and doesn't know how to proceed. Jo,a  college student and Lionel's daughter, is in love, but  seems confused by it, because she hates to leave her father. They have shared a life, just the two of them, for many years after the death of Jo's mother. Gabrielle, a cabdriver, played by the wonderfully expressive Nicole Dogue, loves Lionel - but perhaps she should move forward as well. There is a scene in a cafe after Gabrielle's taxi breaks down in a rainstorm, where all the players' desires and motivations seem to crystallize and spark off each other. They dance. They smoke.  They yearn. They drink.  All activities French actors do so well! (Even though it's been decades since I've smoked, I somehow start craving a KOOL! - maybe accompanied by a rum and coke... the desire passes...)

"Lionel and Jo take a trip to Germany and visit her mother's grave.  As silent and  conflicted as Lionel may be, this difficult trip with the German relatives seems to be the right first step that may  allow Jo to move forward.  But what of the others?
The cinematography here is very beautiful. The countryside is  in sharp contrast to previous long shots of city  trains and traffic, and now  gives us trees and beach grass and little singing  children with lanterns (fresh from JP's Lantern Parade! - no not really.)

"I won't give any more away.  But I will give 35 SHOTS OF RUM  4 cats."

Lisa responds: "I agree with you, Betsy. It was nice to see a film with almost no dialogue and that allowed the camera to move languidly over faces and body expressions so much so that you got to know the character mostly with your eyes. And, thus, enabling the viewer to fill in the mysterious unresolved issues of the film however their particular neural patterns told them to."

Carolyn says: "This film requires a lot of attention. Not much is said, which means missing a couple words from the subtitles is more critical. I kept hoping for (or perhaps missing) clues about how the characters were related or how they felt about each other. My interpretation of some glances or silence led me to different conclusions than others. 3 cats"
Diane says: "I'm grateful for everyone's comments on what this father/daughter film was about. Betsy hit the mark for me when she described it as 'the delicate balance we all must achieve in order to openly move forward and not get stuck, while honoring previous attachments all the same.' I'm thinking about that in light of the vision of father and daughter on a galloping horse. Now I must see Ozu's LATE SPRING (with a side trip to CAFE LUMIERE)...

"Noms coming from me for cinematography, director, Dogue as supporting actress, and perhaps the two leads. 4 cats."

Joanne says: "I saw 35 SHOTS OF RUM last wkd and I have to say I didn't like it very much. It wasn't that it was slow as someone suggested to me, I don't mind that but it was just too minimalist for my taste, little dialogue and little action. Then the ending did not make sense to me. There seemed to be no lead up to the pair getting married. At first i couldnt tell what the relationshop between the young woman and the older man was. it seemed like they were a couple. When i found out it was a father adn daughter i was surprised; all the physical affection between them seemed a bit strange to me. It was interesting how much silence there was in the movie. I don't think an american movie could be so silent but maybe I am wrong about that and some film expert from the group can tell me of one.

"Anyway, I gave it 2 cats. Guess i am in the minority although i was talking to someone who worked at the theater in newton and he wasnt crazy about it."

Betsy responds: "There's room for everyone's movie sensibilities -- it is intersting to understand why something appeals to one and not to another -- just like books or all art really. It's highly subjective, of course.

"Seriously, we'll just make you drink 35 shots of rum..."