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35 Shots of Rum

September 11, 2010

35 Shots of Rum (2008)
Director: Claire Denis
Actors: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Gregoire Colin

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Synopsis: Changing times in a strong father-daughter (Alex Descas, Mati Diop) relationship in Paris.

Review: This is a gorgeous little ode to the delicate shifts in a previously watertight father-daughter relationship. The film’s great attraction is that instead of all its dramatic junctures being explored in a conventional manner, director Claire Denis seems happy to hover around the fringes of the story – not ostensibly politicising her working-class black characters, nor ramming home the subtext of the poignant transience of the father-daughter’s domestic idyll. Denis is content to let the viewer connect the dots, and she helps to embellish the inherent truthfulness of the dramaturgical situation by surrounding it with a palpable sense of place encouraged by the multiple journeys we take with the characters in their jobs as train drivers or cabbies.

One masterful scene that wonderfully encapsulates the artfulness of Denis’ design, is when the four major characters miss out on what had appeared to be the film’s seeming set-piece (a night out at a concert), and are instead holed up in a late night bar waiting for their car to be repaired. Denis subtly slows the tempo down, plays the soothing Commodores’ tune “Night Shift” and lets the camera prowl around the protagonists’ faces as their innermost desires are laid bare. (January 2010)

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