35 Rhums

35 Rhums


(35 Shots of Rum)




Now here it is. The best film of this year as I write this review. The best film of last year, when I saw it at Trinity. The best film of the year before that, when it was actually released in France.

Whatever year you see this film, it is likely to be one of the best films you saw that year.

If you watch it right.

I am afraid to write these words and heap too much praise upon this film, because I know how the casual reviewer may take it. I have read a review on a friend’s site, and all he seemed to get out of it was that it was good, but not entertaining. How could it be good, if it is not entertaining? He also said something about turkey sandwiches, so maybe we should look elsewhere.

The film is entertaining. It is human. It is real. It understands us. How we feel. Our emotions. It IS pure cinema and it releases something within us. Not to digress here, but I find it slightly offensive when someone tries to justify a film as ART, because, they know it is good, but can not find the truth in it, and become bored.

The film is evocative. It is a mood piece. You need to settle back and get immersed in the world. Turn your brain off. Let it wash over you. You will be okay. You will experience.

The wonderful Mati Diop is daughter to Alex Descas, an immigrant train conductor in Paris. He is getting up in age, and as the film opens one of his companions is being forced into retirement. Not much noise is made about this, but identity is being questioned. For years…this is what I did; this is who I was. Who am I, if not the conductor of this train?

While that may boggle his co-worker’s mind, Descas, for his part, seems to have it more together. While a widower, he has a woman he sees who cares for him (more than he cares for her) and a daughter that may care too much, and is reaching the point where her life apart needs to begin.

The film opens and closes on a rice cooker. Think about that now. It may sound funny or odd, but I dare you to not find it damn near perfect in how director Claire Denis utilizes this tool.

And that is about that. There is Denis stalwart Gregoire Colin as Noe, the perhaps-love interest to Diop’s Josephine. There relationship is one of passion and restraint. Anybody who knows anything about the film is probably already well versed in the Commodore’s “Nightshift” sequence in the diner. Oh, but if you have only heard about it, you must experience it. Denis is a mastermind of camerawork and song incorporation, but it is a simple quick, almost unrehearsed moment between Diop and Colin that make the whole thing so painfully beautiful. This movie should stand the test of time on this sequence alone.

Denis has made some great films throughout her career. I would daresay this is her masterpiece, up there with “Trouble Every Day.” She is great at evoking mood and keeping things at a minimum. Much has been made of how sparse the dialogue is. But these people know each other. They are melancholy at the heart and are each at their own turning point. They don’t need words. They get each other. Or they don’t. And that is the problem.

I’ll shut up, so you can see this film. But be ready. It demands as much of you as it does of its characters.

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