32) 35 Shots of Rum (2008) Dir: Claire Denis Date Released: September 2009 Date Seen: January 31, 2010 Rating: 3.25/5
The city according to Claire Denis is not an inviting place for people looking for understated humanist drama. As in Friday Night and Trouble Every Day, 35 Shots of Rum has an ostentatious quality to the melodramatic probing it does into the lives and the forgotten moments of its protagonists that seems completely counter-intuitive to the film's ethereal goal. Denis begs us to notice her film's pronounced sensitivity, the way she hones in on moments that would otherwise be forgotten, little make-or-break scenes that mean nothing in terms of establishing a linear narrative but mean everything in terms of capturing the protagonists' moody world. Her frame is over-determined, touched-up-to-death and totally airless. Her stance is the kind whose condescension never lets you forget that you're looking at a frieze and hence never really allows you to adjust to its hyper-real rhythm. There are moments of tenderness in 35 Shots of Rum but that's it. Denis' method is the antithesis of Gaspar Noe's brand of storytelling: while Denis is fixated on dissecting and slowing down time to show the viewer the unseen city, Noe's city is a macro-level psycho-structure, a landscape of mental projection that announces its surreal brutality in every frame as a means of allowing the viewer to worm their way into the protagonist's head. Distance breeds proximity in Noe's I Stand Alone while it just makes no sense here, serving up a knowingly artificial kitchen sink drama with a purely functional plastic heart.