Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
Here is a movie about four people who have known one another for a long time, and how their relationships shift in a way that was slow in the preparation. The film makes us care for them, and so our attention is held. I've seen films where superheroes shift alliances, and I only yawned. What matters is not the scope of a story, it's the depth.
Part of the pleasure in Claire Denis' "35 Shots of Rum" is working out how these people are involved with the others. Two couples live across a hallway from each other in the same Paris apartment building. Neither couple is "together." Gabrielle and Noe have the vibes of roommates, but the way Lionel and Josephine obviously love each other, it's a small shock when she calls him "Papa."
Lionel (Alex Descas) is a French train engineer. Josephine (Mati Diop) works in a music store. Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) drives her own taxi. Noe (Gregoire Colin) is of uncertain plans. He claims only his much-loved cat is preventing him from moving to Brazil. The four people are in and out of both apartments that we sense they're a virtual family. Small events take place. A guy flirts with Jo at her store. Gabrielle deals with a talkative customer. Lionel and Jo both bring home rice cookers, so Jo puts hers aside so as not to hurt his feelings.
At work, Lionel attends a retirement party for a longtime engineer, Rene. His fellow workers love him, but Rene is miserable. He has no desire to retire. Afterward on a bus, he confesses to Lionel that he has no idea how he got into his life to begin with. He has no desire to be an engineer. Spending his life on trains and buses is no way to live.