Films & Schedules

  • 35 Rhums
    35 Shots of Rum

  • Claire Denis

100 minutes

Production Company:
Soudaine Compagnie
Bruno Pesery
Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau
Production Designer:
Benoît Pilot
Agnès Godard
Guy Lecorne
Martin Boisseau, Dominique Hennequin
Principal Cast: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Grégoire Colin, Nicole Dogué

International Sales Agent:
Elle Driver

TIFF Tags: Family  Romance 

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If the cinema can be divided between its storytellers and its poets, Claire Denis unquestionably falls into the latter category. As her career has progressed, she has determinedly struck her own path, eschewing narrative for the pleasures of the visual. This is not to say that her films are devoid of plot – 35 Rhums is actually considerably plot-driven – but that story always supports atmosphere, colour and tone.

The film traces a whole community of characters from France's working underclass, but at its centre is a father-daughter relationship. Lionel drives a train, a mind-numbing job, and his daughter Jo works in a Virgin Records store. The two find consolation in their bond: Jo is devoted to her father, and nothing gives her greater pleasure than to spend time with him. But she has caught the eye of a young taxi driver who starts to hang around, and she begins to feel gently pulled in two directions. Small moments follow in succession – drinking in bars, meeting up with friends, making nocturnal excursions to concerts. Meanwhile, Lionel has attracted the attention of a middle-aged woman, and several tentative encounters ensue. This general aimlessness is ruptured when Jo's aspiring boyfriend decides to take a job overseas and move away. What his choice provokes is as surprising as it is cathartic, as father and daughter both realize that living – and loving – requires that they confront aspects of their past.

Denis is a master at framing her characters within a milieu that defines their aspirations yet limits their lives. Their own feelings may be less apparent to themselves than they are when observed by the filmmaker and consequently by the audience. But this is only half of the story. When the film starts to move, literally and figuratively, the accretion of small details begins to pay off both emotionally and intellectually.

Piers Handling

Claire Denis was born in Paris and raised primarily in Africa. She graduated from L'Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques. Many of her films have played at the Festival, including Chocolat (88), Man No Run (89), S'en fout la mort (90), J'ai pas sommeil (94), Nénette et Boni (96), Beau travail (99), Trouble Every Day (01), Vendredi Soir (02), L'Intrus (04) and 35 Rhums (07).

Cadillac People's Choice Award