Film

35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums)

If 35 Shots of Rum doesn't spell out all of Lionel or Jo's relationships or choices, it does reveal the emotional fabrics that connect them.


35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums)

Director: Clair Denis
Cast: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogue, Grégoire Colin
Rated: R
Studio: Cinema Guild
Year: 2008
US date: 2009-09-16 (Limited release)
UK date: 2009-07-10 (General release)
Website
Trailer

"I smell cigarettes," Joséphine (Mati Diop) scolds when her father comes home. Lionel (Alex Descas) admits, "I smoked again," his head not quite bowed, a pose that suggests he knows he's busted but already forgiven. Their apartment, in Paris' 18th arrondissement, is small and tidy. As they stand in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, the camera remains at a slight remove, sometimes tilted up, respectful of their quiet closeness. They eat standing up, smiling over the rice she's made: "It's just right," Lionel nods.

These early moments in Clair Denis' 35 Shots of Rum (35 rhums) suggest that father and daughter have spent years like this, their movements unhurried and their voices low. They understand one another, they've shared routines, they know what to expect even when they surprise one another. Here both have remembered to bring home the automatic cooker they've promised one another: as Joséphine has arrived home second, she hides hers when she spots his, pleased to be pleased at his effort. Their relationship is like that, exchanged glances, smiles averted, gentle touches and lingering hugs.

You don't know how they've come to such intimacy, or how they imagine their future. Instead, they inhabit a constant, gently rendered present, their days structured by work (he's an RER train operator, she's a university student and clerk at a Virgin CDs store), but unhurried. That's not to say they lack ambitions or desires, exactly, only that their inner lives are not rendered in the usual movie action or series of events. At school, Jo and her classmates discuss repression, globalization, and the IMF. After her presentation, her professor (Stéphane Pocrain) asks for more ("Explain yourself: you either say too much or not enough"). "What I mean," she says slowly, "is debt is a way of dominating the Global South. Creditors have the privilege of deciding the rules of the game." Her teacher suggests she's too "pedantic" and "all emotional." An earnest fellow student offers perspective, that the situation is persistent: "The system must be changed like Fanon says... When we revolt, it's not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe." The scene cuts before Jo responds.

At work and at home, Jo is less voluble. She and Lionel keep to themselves, drawn into occasional interactions with a couple of longtime neighbors, Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue), a cab driver whose unrequited affection for Lionel seems vaguely aching, and Noé (Grégoire Colin), Jo's former suitor who announces more than once his plans to move away now that his parents are dead. If Gabrielle's lack of stability is indicated by her job (she's ever in motion, but not moving forward), Noé's sloppy restlessness contrasts sharply with Jo's seeming serenity: he first appears outside his apartment, coming home late and receding into the hallway shadows, then kicking his parents' cat gently, maybe playfully ("Move it, fatso"), as he enters. When she invites him to jog with her, they laugh and tease one another, their specific history unspoken. And when she visits him in his apartment -- cluttered with his parents' bric-à-brac -- their silence is tense, unlike the easy quiet she shares with Lionel, as Noé seems caught between flirting with Jo and resenting her. He insists, "I don't get attached," but when she asks why he hasn't left town yet, he smiles, "I don’t know. I must have my reasons."

If these reasons remain oblique, so do Jo's shifting relations with Lionel. His hours apart from her are cryptic and beguiling: he drives his train, the tracks winding in front of him, the rhythms and noises of the machinery monotonous and lurching. His own future is as uncertain as Noé's or Jo's. As Lionel sees that René (Julieth Mars Toussaint), a coworker who is retiring feels lost and worried, Lionel tries to be supportive, but their exchange in Lionel's train is comprised mostly of a shared gaze out the windshield. "You make me feel better," says René. "You're not much of a talker, you never say a thing." Lionel nods, not quite explaining, "When I get dark thoughts, I think of my daughter." The camera cuts to the tracks ahead as they enter a dark tunnel.

Lionel's thoughts are nearly visible in one scene only, when he and Jo accompany Gabrielle and Noé on night out. When their plans to attend a concert are thwarted, they find refuge from the rain in a café. Here they sit and eat and drink, not talking so much as they smile and nod at one another, until the Commodores' "Night Shift" begins to play. Lionel watches intently as Jo dances, lovely, sensuous, and wonderfully unknowable. As she glances away and his face hints at possession and tenderness, longing and utter appreciation, the ambiguity of their mutual understanding is perfectly satisfying.

Repeatedly, the relationships among all four of these carefully drawn individuals appear delicate and deeply felt, suggested in glimpses through doorways and long shots down hallways. As they seek connections elsewhere, they also hang onto one another, their choices rarely clear even to themselves. If the movie doesn't spell out either their relationships or their choices, it does reveal, in subtle, even elusive images, the emotional and moral fabrics that connect them.

10
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.

Books

Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.

Music

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.

Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

Music

Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Music

'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.

Music

Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.

Music

VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.

Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.