PRINT September 2009


Claire Denis

CLAIRE DENIS’S ACHINGLY TENDER, bittersweet 35 Shots of Rum describes a father-daughter relationship that’s as good as they get. Lionel (Alex Descas), a widower, has lived alone with his daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop), for most of her life. A railroad engineer, he drives commuter trains between Paris and the suburbs. She is a university student. Their apartment, in a multicultural working-class district, is sparsely furnished but fully lived in. After the opening six-minute montage of trains—appropriate since the film is about a rite of passage, as well as the daily routines and rituals that keep one from being overwhelmed by the transience of all things—Lionel and Joséphine arrive home separately. She starts dinner and greets him at the door with a kiss; he hugs her; she brings him his slippers and goes back to preparing the food as he takes a shower. They eat at a small table in the

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