Most American filmmakers would focus on the multicultural aspect of 35 Shots of Rum — Claire Denis takes it for granted that her characters are immigrants and doesn’t turn her film into a political discussion. Instead, she composes a tone poem on themes of generational drift and reconciliation that have been universal since long before Yasujiro Ozu’s sublime Late Spring (1949), a film and filmmaker to whom Denis offers homage.
Alex Descas is quietly eloquent as a West Indian Paris Métro driver facing retirement. Should his beautiful daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop), look after him, or should she start out on her own life, perhaps with the boy across the hall?
Denis relates her tale with none of the extremities of I Can’t Sleep (1994) or Trouble Every Day (2001), but it does open up at times with the epiphanies of real life. Understated, beautifully acted, and with an exacting soundtrack, 35 Shots of Rum goes down easily but packs a subtle kick.