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3.2 out of 5 stars
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3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 25 July 2009
This film by Claire Denis who wrote the script and directed is a persuasive small-scale family drama set in the working-class suburbs of Paris, where a widower and father, originally from the overseas departement of Guadeloupe, lives with his daughter in a block of flats. Their neighbours include an elusive young man who may be her suitor and a female taxi driver who seems to be the father's on-off lover.

Mlle Denis outlines her characters subtly and slowly, keeping their relationships hazy. She expects her audience to work to follow the sometimes elliptical events (which, unlike the other reviewer here, I did not find too slow) and to assess the characters from the information that's dripped out. One of the noticeable things is that these people appear to have their being exclusively among black people. The only white faces belong to the aunt and her niece who are visited in Lubeck, Germany, towards the end.

The style here is typically contemporary with regard to the preponderance of close-ups as the domestic life of father and daughter is traced in careful detail. The intensity of the camera's gaze manages to endow the mostly humdrum events with significance beyond the banal. Mlle Denis likes to dwell on visual elements of daily life that establish a pattern: the first 10 mins are seen from the point of view of a suburban train driver (several of our male characters are train drivers) as the tracks at points and sidings converge, diverge, then converge again; we also see the lit carriages of trains passing by, each one containing little human dramas closed to the onlooker.

There is excellent ensemble acting here backed up by a varied and always attractive musical soundtrack (especially that which illuminates the stand-out sequence of the film, when a carload of concert-goers breaks down and they seek shelter in a bar that opens specially for them. Here is a quiet scene that's infused with energy.

If you think you'd like a film that unhurriedly says something about the interaction of individualism and community, then this is for you.
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on 3 May 2011
Claire Denis' 35 Shots Of Rum is a sombre and humane look at a quartet of Parisians who experience loneliness, isolation and disconnection. Lionel (Alex Descas) is a train driver who lives with his daughter Josephine (Mati Diop). He has a seemingly casual relationship with taxi driver Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) who seems invested in the relationship to a much greater degree than Lionel. And Noe (Gregoire Colin) who lives alone with his cat seems to have an interest in Josephine. The trouble is that all these characters are so wrapped up in their own loneliness, they fail to communicate with one another.

They are so wrapped up, however, that it takes their car to break down in the rain for them to open up to each other. Whether this is a good thing or not is a different question. Denis shoots the film in a desolate manner that has a complete (and fitting) lack of flair, which is a direct metaphor for the characters emotional emptiness. Claire Denis has named Japanese master Yasijuro Ozu as a main influence for the film, and it is quite obvious. The quiet, restrained dignity of Lionel, and the almost silent exchanges between the characters mirror Ozu's classics Late Spring and Tokyo Story. The film can be slow at time, but stick with it and it is richly rewarding. A complex film that is powerfully acted.

[...]
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on 31 July 2013
I have loved this film since finding it on a BBC channel around 2am a few months back. An often bitter-sweet, moving account of the ordinary day to day lives of a father and daughter and their neighbours who form an extended family unit. What is so beautiful about this film is that there is no real plot; it really is a fly-on-the-wall view of a few days in the life of a normal group of people.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 August 2012
Claire Denis' 2008 film 35 Shots of Rum is a subtle and reflective study of urban life in Paris, generally quite sombre in mood but overall providing a poignant commentary on some of the issues facing ordinary working people in a modern (western) city environment. Once again reflecting some of the themes stemming from her own French colonnial upbringing, Denis' film centres on the lives of black railway worker, and widower, Lionel (Alex Descas) and his student daughter Josephine (Mati Diop), who together share a Parisian apartment. The relationship between father and daughter is essentially a loving one, despite at times being put under some pressure by the involvement of other third parties, namely Lionel's ex-girlfriend Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) and Jo's mercurial boyfriend Noé (Grégoire Colin), both of whom share the same apartment block as Lionel and his offspring.

Denis' film is slow-moving, but carefully observant of the way real people behave in the real world, and her cast are quite superlative in the realism they bring to the film (for me, reminiscent of performances elicited in the works of directors such as Ken Loach and the Dardennes brothers). In particular, Denis' regular acting collaborator Descas puts in a brilliant turn as the reserved Lionel and Diop belies the fact that this was her feature debut to deliver a marvellously affecting performance. Similarly, Denis' film depicts the cast struggling with issues of national identity and belonging, the transitory nature of modern society and the conditioning effect that the work environment can have on individuals. This latter point is powerfully demonstrated by the frustration felt by Lionel's newly retired work colleague René (superbly played by first time actor Julieth Mars Toussaint), who is unable to transition himself out of the routine of a 9-to-5 existence. (Incidentally, the drinking of 35 shots of rum (of the film's title) is a traditional celebratory act, one which Lionel refrains from completing during his colleague's retirement party).

As the film's central pairing battle to come to terms with the pressures which look increasingly likely to tear their near-idyllic existence apart, towards the end of the film, in order to reinforce their family bonds, they make the journey to Germany to visit the sister of Lionel's deceased wife (incidentally, the sister is played by Ingrid Caven, veteran of many Rainer Werner Fassbinder films of the 1970s). The other notable feature of Denis' film is the beautifully atmospheric soundtrack, written by Denis' regular musical collaborators, the English band Tindersticks.

A beautifully subtle and reflective film that is well worth seeing.
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on 24 July 2009
35 Shots of Rum is French film about a train driver in Paris who is a single father, living with his daughter, who is at college. It is the story of their relationship, with each other, and with the other people who live in their flat block.

There are some really beautiful, insightful moments, exquisitely played and directed. Father and daughter are very close, enmeshed is probably not too strong a word, and some the details of the intimacy of their domesticity are just lovely, without being mawkish.

The other plus is that there is remarkably dialogue, and all of it spoken in clear short sentences - rusty GCSE French should be able to see you through without resorting to reading subtitles.

On the downside, this is much, much too slow. It would benefit from a really significant edit, not just a trim, a radical haircut. What should have been a little gem is stretched out to OK.

Buried in there is a really lovely little film, with something real to say, but if you want to find it make sure you are in the mood and have grabbed the comfy seat in front of the TV.
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on 23 August 2012
This is a wonderful film that takes its time, never feeling the need to spell everything out for the viewer. Great natural acting, masterfully shot and with a beautiful Tindersticks soundtrack, it has stayed with me since I saw it when first released. A film to be treasured and revisited.
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on 17 January 2015
enjoyed film certainly different.
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on 12 March 2015
This could be an artistic achievement but you need a lot of patience to go through the film. In my mind the film is too slow, too cluttered by small details that may not be necessary, no offence - but the film is rather boring. Of course, other people may like it more then me.
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on 16 December 2016
Dont miss it !!!
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on 15 May 2013
I love this film but was disappointed when I popped it in and there were no English subtitles even though it states on the back 'french with english subtitles.' I got it for less than the £10 it's retailing for at the moment and couldn't be bothered to go through the rigmarole of sending it back. I notice that I'm not the only person this has happened to, very disappointing amazon!
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