Movie #203 35 Shots of Rum
(2008, France, d. Claire Denis)
Claire Denis’ subtle yet powerful 35 Shots of Rum describes itself to be a tale about a bunch of people who live in the same apartment. For me, it was simply the story of a father and daughter, and all the people that came and went in their lives. It’s the type of film – sort of like The American – that doesn’t rely on expositional dialogue or explanatory lines to create tension. It’s tension exists purely from the portrayals of these characters by the talented actors who are playing them. When we are first introduced to the father (played by Alex Descas), he is smoking a cigarette at night, watching trains go by. We don’t know how long he’s been there or how long he plans on staying – but through the power of Denis’ images alone, these are thoughts we actively ponder. He comes home and cooks dinner for his daughter. They don’t say much to each other but we can feel their love. At work, he and his coworkers say goodbye to a retiring employee and friend. At home, he watches as his daughter becomes the eye of affection to two different boys. The father never addresses it directly, but we know the film is about leaving and about loneliness. We know everything that’s at stake here. No one has to say a thing. No one does say a thing. 35 Shots of Rum is one of those films that you look back on and wonder what it was about the images that were being presented that were so powerful. To be honest, there was no identifiable act structure, the film was very non-formulaic, and there was nothing traditional about it. It simply presented a slice of life to us – but it was a slice of life charged with emotion, with pain, with sadness, and with doubt. It’s hard to say too much about the film when the film itself had very little to say. I would, however, warn the casual moviegoer from watching this film. It can come off boring for those looking for entertainment or spectacle. This is reality, according to Denis. And if you’re interested in that, you will enjoy this picture.