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35 Shots of Rhum

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    I finally watched Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rhum today. Ugetsu mentioned it in our film club discussion on Ozu’s Late Spring over three years ago (see here and here), but it took me a while to get to the film. Rather than replying to the earlier topics which aren’t really about Denis’s film, I thought it better to start a new thread.

    35 Shorts of Rhum is an interesting film and worth checking out for its Ozu connection. For some reason I actually first remembered it to be a remake of Tokyo Story and not Late Spring, so I was a bit confused at first. It did all come together in the end, though. Like Ugetsu wrote back in 2011, several scenes are more stolen from than simply referencing Ozu, yet the film maintains its own contemporary French identity throughout.

    I must say though that for me it was a better exercise in intertextuality than it was a film, which is to say that I wasn’t totally sold on the characters or the story. Perhaps I expected a bit more. In fact, maybe I had too high expectations, not only for all the praise that it has received, but also as I really liked the film that Denis made right after 35 Rhum, the 2010 White Material. Or maybe it was just the wrong day to watch it, but I felt that the film didn’t quite manage to reach the quiet confidence of Late Spring.

    That said, 35 Shots of Rhum is definitely a film worth watching.



    Its been a couple of years since I’ve seen it, but I remember being a little puzzled and bored with it, until the dance scene, which I found wonderful, and from then on I ‘got’ it. But it wasn’t until near the end that I realised just how ‘intertextual’ the film is. Normally that sort of cinematic onanism annoys me, but in this case I loved seeing the references.



    The dance scene was definitely a high point in the film, although both me and my wife felt that it was also a little too staged (they miss a concert due to their car breaking down in pouring rain and then, instead of heading home, they talk their way into a bar that has already closed). It felt weird to have such a contrived scene in the middle of an otherwise so natural film. But it’s also a lovely, magical moment.

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