Saturday, September 12, 2009

Claire Denis' 35 SHOTS OF RUM opens -- finally -- at Film Forum


TrustMovies first saw Claire Denis' new 35 SHOTS OF RUM last March, during the FSLC's Rendez-vous with French Cinema series, at which time her film had no distributor. Happily, it's now getting a theatrical release via Film Forum in New York City, beginning Wednes-
day, September 16, and continuing for two weeks.

I'm pleased to report that the filmmaker has forsaken, for now at least, the impenetrably fudgey, dreamlike nature of her last Rendez-vous effort, The

Intruder.
With 35 Shots of Rum she gives us an intimate family drama about taking leave -- of locations, desires, each other, and life itself. Post-film, what you're likely to remember best are the beautiful and expressive faces of the characters here: A father, his daughter, the woman next door, friends, co-workers, a neighbor -- literally everyone encountered in this amazingly-photographed movie.


The cinematographer is Agnès Godard, who has shot many ground-breaking films -- from most of Denis' work to Backstage and par-
ticularly Golden Door. Here, she makes every face a miracle, every night shot aglow with light, heat or something cool -- like the moon as you've never quite seen it. Not being a photographer myself, I don't know how she does it. But she does it -- again and again. I am almost tempted to use as a guide for movie-watching the name of the cinematographer, rather than director, so that I will not miss any film by Ms. Godard -- nor any by relative newcomer Natasha Braier (see yesterday's post on The Milk of Sorrow) .

Back to Ms Denis. 35 Shots of Rum is certainly her most accessible movie since... perhaps her very first, Chocolat. There is such feeling here -- love, appreciation, caring, kindness -- and yet something is missing for these people. That, I think, may be a connection to or passion for anything outside each other: ideas, art, goals, something larger than the immediate friends and family. Is this because France has not offered a real home for the citizens it colonized -- a place from which they might expand beyond the simple acts of working, living, loving, eating? Perhaps.

For instance, the lead character (played very well by Alex Decas, shown above, right) has a workplace friend whose retirement from his job leaves him utterly bereft. Is there nothing else in his life? We can't know. Verbal communication counts for little in this world; instead, connections are made visually or by touch. This is realized most beautifully by the scene in the small restaurant to which our characters escape out of the rain when their car breaks down. They barely speak, but they touch, look and -- especially -- dance. Slowly, right there in front of us, their entire world changes. You don't get a scene like this all that often. Which is one of the reasons Ms Denis is so prized by so many of us.


(All photos are from the film, except that of Ms Denis, from 2002,
which is by Jeff Vespa - © and couresty of WireImage.com)

2 comments:

trenddude said...

nice, hope i can join

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, trenddude. Join what?