Recently, Ruthless Culture has become somewhat fixated with films that deal with alienation, death, misery, insanity and violence. Fixated enough that I think a bit of a change might be welcome and I can think of no better a vehicle for change than Claire Denis’ 35 Rhums (2008).
35 Shots of Rum is a warm-hearted but utterly uncompromising drama revolving around a somewhat extended family grouping. Lionel (Alex Descas) lives with his daughter Josephine (Mati Diop) in a block of flats that also serves as home to Lionel’s old partner Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) and old friend of the family Noe (Gregoire Colin). If I use vague terminology such as ‘partner’ and ‘friend of the family’ it is because, initially at least, many of the relationships in 35 Shots of Rum are unclear. This lack of clarity is not only intensional, it is one that continues throughout the film as Denis tries to place us in the same position as her characters… we know how we feel but we do not know where everyone stands.