Director Claire Denis -- who was born in France but raised in colonial Africa -- enjoyed a measure of art-house buzz when she leapt onto the scene in 1989 with her film Chocolat (not to be confused with the awful 2000 Johnny Depp/Juliette Binoche movie of the same name). Siskel & Ebert praised it and Denis on their show at the time. In 2000, her film Beau Travail topped the Film Comment critics' poll of the best films of the year. But in-between, she couldn't catch a break. She has a tendency to make "mood pieces" rather than plot-driven films; these tend to cause people to think, thus making them very uncomfortable. Some of her movies couldn't get distribution and remain difficult to see. Others received only the tiniest distribution and even most critics didn't notice them. Such is the case with her wonderful new 35 Shots of Rum (2 screens), which is one of the year's best films.

categories Columns, Cinematical