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More Claire! More Claire!

More Claire! More Claire!

With White Material making its impressive bow at Toronto (soon to be in the New York Film Festival) and 35 Shots of Rum officially opening today in New York (go see it!) and our latest Claire Denis career symposium still web-fresh, you could say we have the talented Ms. Denis on our brains a lot lately. As should you: if you’re in the proper areas, go see her fabulous new films if you can get the chance. We’re especially over the moon about Rum. Two takes:

Michael Koresky at indieWIRE:

In the simple steadfast training of the camera lens, cinema has the ability to give seemingly mundane objects or actions an almost supernatural provenance; in so doing, it can change how we see the world. It sounds like a lofty notion, but it’s actually a literal truth. Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 36 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, for me forever transformed light switches, pots of boiling potatoes, and breaded cutlets into powerful cinematic touchstones, while more recently, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century made a basement ventilation pipe into something as mysterious, grandiose, and foreboding as Kubrick’s otherworldly 2001 monolith. And now, thanks to Claire Denis’s effortlessly humane, enormously moving 35 Shots of Rum, I’ll never look at a rice cooker quite the same way again.

The item, unlikely in its beauty, encased in appealingly lightweight red plastic, may seem peripheral to the lovingly meandering narrative of Denis’s film, but its significance to the film’s main characters — Lionel, a middle-aged train conductor (a handsome and commanding Alex Descas) and his college-student daughter Josephine (Mati Diop) —however understated, cannot be overstated. Read the rest…

Adam Nayman at Reverse Shot:

In Claire Denis’ L’Intrus (2004), Michel Subor’s aged mercenary finds himself in a bar in Pusan, harmonizing with a stranger: “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” It’s a moment of connection in a film that tracks the movements of a lone wolf, and as such, it’s short-lived. The succor provided by a great piece of pop can only last for so long. 35 Shots of Rum, also features an interlude in people come together to the strains of a beloved song, but the harmony this time is one of bodies rather than voices, and the moment is not fleeting but suspended in time. Having been thwarted in their attempt to attend a concert by a combination of car trouble and heavy rain, the film’s principal characters—veteran train-driver Lionel (Alex Descas), his college-age daughter Jo (Mati Diop), and two neighbors from their humble Paris apartment complex, Noe (Grégoire Colin) and Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue)—duck into a near-empty, African café for shelter.

Their tetchiness, which had been building since well before the downpour, eases and then abates at the sound of music, leading to an impromptu pas de quatre that, in its languorous yet dizzying exchanges of partners and glances, serves as a précis of the film’s dramatic action. Lionel dances with Jo, the daughter who is more like a life partner; we have already seen them in their odd version of domestic bliss, she hovering over a rice cooker while he showers after a long day’s work, eventually sitting down to share their dinner in comfortable not-quite-silence. As the Commodores’ undeniable “Nightshift” starts up, Lionel cedes the dance to Noe, the proverbial boy next door (or, rather, the boy upstairs). We know that he has feelings for Jo, and that they’re only partially reciprocated. Lionel moves off and dances with the café owner (Adele Ado), while Gabrielle, who lives down the hall, looks on with—what is it? Jealousy? Sadness? Resignation? Meanwhile, those voices swim through the room: “it’s gonna be a long night/it’s gonna be alright.” Read the rest…

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