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Venice Film Festival, Out of Competition
A small, subtle film whose very simplicity makes it a winner, ‘35 Shots of Rum’ describes a father and daughter’s love for each other, as the time for the girl to leave the parental nest grows near. Claire Denis, not always an easy director, is in top form here directing an almost all-black cast with grace and delicacy. For the happy few, this is French art house cinema at its unpretentious best, able to connect with attentive foreign auds and win festival prizes. One can only ponder why it was screened out of competition in Venice.
The story takes its time opening a long, wordless train sequence as Lionel (Alex Descas) and Jo (Mati Diop) make their separate ways home after work. Their tender relationship is evident as they share a meal in their cramped apartment on the far outskirts of Paris. It’ns a friendly building and they are on close terms with neighbors Gabrielle (Nicole Dogué), a taxi driver with a long-standing crush on widower Lionel, and Noé (Gregoire Colin), a cool-looking guy with a cat who is often away on business. The love story between Jo and Noe is so understated it’s barely visible, until the whole gang heads off to a concert together and, while they dance in a bar, their feelings are revealed in front of Jo’s father.
An excellent cast fills in the blanks of the slight storyline, making more narrative superfluous. It is almost a shock when, toward the end, something out of the ordinary happens: Jo and Lionel take a trip to Germany to visit the grave the dead mother and stop by to see Jo’s self-centered aunt (Ingrid Caven.) The scene comes late to delve into the past, but it does make an original bridge to film’s typically understated conclusion.
Descas is a monument to paternal dignity as he gently, and against his feelings, pushes the reluctant Jo out of their comfortable life together. At the same time he confronts his own aging as he sees his life as a train conductor reflected in the unhappy retirement of his friend René (Julieth Mars.) Colin, flaunting the impish charm of a French Johnny Depp, makes a fine pair with Diop, the soap-and-water girl next door with the serious eyes. A modern soundtrack performed by Tindersticks matches Agnès Godard’s stylish cinematography.
Production company: Soudaine Compagnie, Arte France Cinema, Pandora Film Produktion. Cast: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Gregoire Colin, Nicole Dogue, Julieth Mars, Jean-Christophe Folly, Djedje Apali, Ingrid Caven. Director: Claire Denis. Screenwriters: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Producer: Bruno Pesery. Co-producers: Christophe Friedel, Claudia Steffen. Director of photography: Agnes Godard. Production designer: Arnaud De Moleron. Music: Tindersticks
Costumes: Judy Shrewsbury. Editor: Guy Lecorne. Sales Agent: Elle Driver. 100 minutes.
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