35 Shots of Rum
35 Shots of Rum (2008)
Dir. Claire Denis
35 Shots of Rum may just be the most astute commentary on human beings’ need for change I’ve ever seen captured on film. Somehow, it just taps into all the subtle disarray that you find yourself in just as it has become time to make a life-shifting decision. There sometimes seems to be “signs” unfolding around you that symbolize the need for change (as realized in this film by a rather tragic, but entirely anticlimactic moment involving a deceased cat); other times it may just involve watching how others grow around you, unbeknownst to them, but painfully clear to the observer. Amidst all this, there are also some times where a specific tragedy can underline all these reasons, making it all the more prescient to change.
What remains truly masterful about Denis’ film is that while these above descriptors sound like a film chock-full of high drama, she infuses each moment with such grace and patience that the drama unfolds in equal measure and balance to, say, cooking. Denis trusts the viewer, much like David Simon and Co. are developing with Treme, to immerse themselves in peoples’ lives, not the drama that may surround them. In 35 Shots of Rum, as with Treme, perhaps the drama has already occurred, perhaps there were in fact major developments that played a role in how this family came to live in these somewhat peculiar living quarters; what we see as the viewer, however, is life reacting to the consequences, the day-t0-day mundanity that occurs between the changes that form identities. The film ends with indeed the moment of change, a signifier and celebration for someone’s choice to end a chapter in their life. How that is actually implemented is for another film.