Friday, May 1, 2009

SFIFF52 Day 9: 35 Shots of Rum

The 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival is halfway over; it runs through May 7th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about one film I've seen or am hotly anticipating.

35 Shots of Rum (FRANCE: Claire Denis, 2008)

playing: 7:00 PM tonight at the Clay, with two more showtimes later in the festival.
festival premiere: Venice 2008
distributor: Cinema Guild theatrical release expected in New York, and hopefully here in Frisco as well.

Just about every cinephile I've talked to about the SFIFF program has the same thing to say when I've asked what new film in the program they're most eager to see: 35 Shots of Rum by Claire Denis. If you don't know her or her work yet, check out this resource for approaches to catching up. I think it must be the perfect storm of a respected auteur who has still not received her due in this country, a four-year absence of new Denis work on local screens, and a particularly well-received film that seemingly has been a highlight of just about every other film festival in the world. If I ask myself the same question, I have the same answer, and I guess for the same reasons. I don't pretend to be a leader rather than a follower here at Hell On Frisco Bay.

I already have a ticket for Wednesday's screening, but might just see 35 Shots of Rum tonight as well, at its first festival showing. I'm anticipating it more fervently than anything other than perhaps the Dengue Fever/Gordon Willis pairing next Tuesday, and the latter anticipation is at least as much for the extra-filmic experience as it is for the film itself. I hope my expectations, high as they are, are not dashed.

I must admit I've done very little reading on the film in preparation for seeing it; sometimes I like to let a trusted director take me by the hand into her cinematic world as uninformed of details as possible. When a perusal of the SFIFF program guide sparked a mental exercise in which I tried to identify the three filmmaker references in a written description that I think provide the least help for me in determining whether or not to see an unfamiliar film, I came up with Eric Rohmer (code for "talky, but good"), David Cronenberg (code for "this may be a horror film but don't dismiss it if your not a fan of that genre") and Yasujiro Ozu (code for "quiet" or maybe "transcendental", neither of which I find particularly appropriate labels for Ozu's frequently misunderstood work). It was not an intentional slight to the SFIFF notes written by Judy Bloch, as I had not even skimmed her piece to see that she'd name-dropped two of these three in it. For me, Denis is name enough to know I want to see a film.

SFIFF52 Day 9
Another option: Our Beloved Month of August (PORTUGAL: Miguel Gomes, 2008), a demanding but ultimately satisfying cine-relexive work by a young filmmaker. Jeffrey Anderson says more.
Non-SFIFF-option for today: Notorious (USA: Alfred Hitchcock, 1946) at the Paramount in Oakland, where five dollars gets you entry into a true Art Deco palace, along with cartoon, newsreel, and organist. And the feature just happens to be Hitchcock's greatest black-and-white film, in my opinion.


  1. Really looking forward to the Claire Denis myself. Had never heard of her until Barry Jenkins cited her as an influence in this interview, and now I want to see all her work!

  2. I'd say she's made enough films now for a substantial retrospective. I hope the PFA or someone else enterprising mounts one soon! I've only seen L'Intrus, Friday Night and Trouble Every Day on the big screen.

  3. Was at the 35 Rum Clay screening tonight. Such a beautiful Ozu homage. Much to love about what it is and much to like about what it's not. Looking forward Still Walking, but I'm guessing this is the best I'll see at SFIFF this year.

  4. So far the best (not including retrospectives) has been the one I saw last night: Ursula Meier's Home. But I have both the Denis and the Kore-eda ahead of me...