35 Shots Of Rhum

35 Shots Of Rhum

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Describing the emotion running through Claire Denis’s films is akin to trying to wash one’s feet in a mirage. It’s there and yet, if you try to tap into it, its beauty is instantly lost. Describing the plot is more simple – there barely is one.

Like the lengthy, dialogue-free train-travelling opening segment, 35 Rhums represents, for the audience, a journey from an uncertain starting point to a destination we have no inkling about and are required, if willing, to try to work out from the ‘stations’ visited en route.

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Lionel (Alex Descas) works the trains, heading home at night to the apartment he shares with his daughter-on-the-verge-of-womanhood Josephine (Mati Diop). Theirs is a comfortable and familiar sort of relationship that has its routines, requiring little chat. As we see them go about their daily lives, we get a sense of their extended family – Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) a neighbour who, in the absence of Josephine’s mother, whose fate we learn late in the film, has become her surrogate and yet finds herself always on the outside, looking in. Upstairs lives Noe (Grégoire Colin), whose parents have passed away and who relies on a cat for company while nursing dreams of Josephine. He, like Gabrielle, is part of the family and yet still trying to find a way into the inner circle of the father-daughter dynamic.

We join them on their journeys, of growing up, growing old, growing together, growing apart and of growing understanding. Denis declines to make concessions, she’s willing to show, refuses to tell. As such, it depends what sort of a traveller you are. Just want to be there, at your destination with all the bags you started with? Then this is not the trip for you. Prepared to kick off your shoes and look at the scenery on the way? Then there are charms to be had.

Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2009
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The shifting relationship between a single dad and his teenage daughter.
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