In Nenette and Boni, Claire Denis captured the intimacy in a complicated but very close family. It takes some time to work out how the characters in 35 rhums relate to each other and even more time to figure out how they are related in the strict biological sense, but maybe the latter doesn't even matter so much. 35 rhums is intimately and profoundly about characters caring about each other - Alex Descas' Lionel trying to take care of his colleague who's just retired and no longer knows what to do with his life, what to do when he isn't driving a Paris metro train - his daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop), trying to take care of her dad, his ex-girlfriend (or girlfriend, or friend) Gabrielle trying to work her way back into their life, and the lodger in the top floor of the banlieue tower, played by Claire Denis regular Grégroire Colin, only fits into their configuration awkwardly, he comes and goes, constantly tries to draw Jo into his life while Jo attempts to hold on to him in some way, to figure out how to include him. "We have everything here, why go looking somewhere else?" says Lionel, when somewhere else becomes an option for his daughter, and it's this back-and-forth, the struggle between keeping her around because he needs her and letting her go because he knwos he will need to set her free eventually, which makes this film so interesting. At its core, 35 rhums is just a selection of intimate scenes of the family life of a very complicated family (a failed attempt to attend a concert that ends in a slowly evolving tragedy in a pub, a family visit in Germany that features a strange conversation about a lack of closeness), but somehow, this film manages to be just as compelling as Claire Denis' other more dramatic films. The acting is fantastic, Agnès Godard's cinematography as gorgeous as always, the Tindersticks provide the soundtrack, as always. Watching a film by Claire Denis feels like coming home from outside, the kind of feeling you have when it's been raining and the very moment you take off your soaked jacket, you feel completely safe and sound.
2008, directed by Claire Denis, starring Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogue, Grégoire Colin, Julieth Mars Toussaint, Jean-Christophe Folly, Ingrid Caven, Melanie Petzold.
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