400 Screens, 400 Blows is a weekly column that takes an in-depth look at the films playing below the radar, beneath the top ten, and on 400 screens or less.
The world's oldest film festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, continues this week. Diving through the myriad of titles, I came up with a couple of winners, neither of which has a U.S. distributor as of this moment. I'll start with the latest from the infuriatingly brilliant French director Claire Denis. Following her baffling, free-flowing, poetic epic masterpiece L'Intrus (The Intruder), Denis returns with a relatively simpler, more narrative-based feature, 35 Shots of Rum, though without sacrificing any of her unique flow. The new film focuses on an all-black Paris community of friends, relations, former and current lovers and colleagues. Lionel (Alex Descas) is a train engineer and lives with his beautiful, grown daughter Jo (Mati Diop). They don't speak very often, but they share an obviously tender relationship full of hugs and kisses on the cheek. Near the film's beginning, Jo buys herself a rice cooker, and Lionel coincidentally brings one home as well. Jo opens her father's and cooks rice, keeping her own in the package and hidden away.