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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ’35 Shots’ subtle

    Claire Denis

    35 Shots of Rum

    Cinema Guild

    Released Feb 18, 2009

    Grade: B-

    Downing 35 shots of rum is an impressive-sounding feat. The film of the same name, directed by Claire Denis, certainly leaves an impression. However, it’s a film that will be received with varying success among the critics and cynics.

    “”35 Shots of Rum”” defies the standard plot summary; there is no way to explain exactly what happens in the movie. Rather, Denis focuses on the development of her characters throughout the film. The audience is introduced to four characters, who will remain relevant for the extent of the film. The rest of the cast migrates in and out of their lives, essentially nameless, and forming something resembling a backdrop or setting than other active participants in the story.

    Story is a relative term here. The four central characters include Lionel, a middle-aged French train engineer and his daughter Josephine, a university student. The bond between Lionel and Josephine is more indicative of a partnership than a father-daughter relationship. And they are in fact partners, in a sense. Their daily routine suggests that the roommate arrangement has been commonplace for some time.

    Gabrielle, a taxi driver, and Noe, a somewhat adventurous young man with indeterminate future plans, also live in Lionel and Josephine’s building. It is apparent that the four have been intertwined in each other’s lives for years, as they all move freely between the others’ homes. Gabrielle is clearly in love with the oblivious Lionel, and Jo and Noe seem unsure of what to make of the other. Most of the film revolves around the growth and transformation within these tenuous relationships.

    The film often takes place in close quarters: in the apartments, a car, a taxi or a bar. In the bars, Lionel repeatedly declines to take part in the drinking challenge of consuming 35 shots of rum in one sitting. The contest is one of his own invention, and he refuses to partake until the end of the film. Due to an event that is only implied and never confirmed, he finally succumbs and downs the 35 shots. The audience is never enlightened as to whether he completes the task out of celebration or in mourning.

    If you are an avid purveyor of foreign films, you will know what to expect from this film. You will appreciate the subtleties, the subtext and the tension as you watch people interact in this French slice-of-life film. The critics are raving about it. Even Roger Ebert calls the film “”wise.”” However, if you would rather not read subtitles for dialogue, or prefer explosions or identifiable plotlines, you may very well need a few shots yourself to enjoy “”35 Shot of Rum.””

    Today and Thursday are the last days of screenings at The Loft Cinema. Call 795-7777 or visit for showtimes.

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