35 Shots of Rum

Claire Denis has created a sensual and contemplative body of films over the years, but nothing in her work prepares us for this deeply emotional yet light-of-touch story set among a small circle of Parisians and their friends. In fact, Denis evokes nothing so much as Eric Rohmer in his “seasons” quartet as she follows the various characters in a roundelay of relationships that touches on almost every kind of love there is: father-daughter, old lovers, old colleagues, absent mother, lost sister, unrequited, one-night, budding, brooding . . . Lionel (Alex Descas), a train engineer, shares an apartment with his daughter Jo (Mati Diop), a university student. In the same building live taxi driver Gabrielle (Nicole Dogué) and a young man who comes and goes, Noe (the intense and always mysterious Grégoire Colin, like Descas a Denis regular). Together, they are a kind of family. We figure out their roles and relationships only gradually as Denis leaves crumbs along her narrative path for us to follow-it's one of the great pleasures of this extraordinarily pleasurable film made up of small moments, of looks and silences, of magical touches of physicality and pensiveness. Agnès Godard's cinematography richly limns an interior architecture in which objects take on an Ozu-like delicacy and immediacy, and uses train tracks (and cars and motorbikes and vans) to propel the story into the out of doors and eventually, the future, as father and daughter face the inevitable: her independence.

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