February 21, 2007

13 Tzameti: Grim noir

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****

Few small foreign-language films get the top-notch send-off from critics (an absolute necessity for international success) accorded 13 Tzameti. From festivals in Venice, Sundance and (yes!) Transylvania to the European Film Awards, the little black-and-white thriller--moody, noirish and grim--has bowled 'em over. It sure did me, despite a beginning that relies on coincidence (overheard conversation and a deity-blown breeze that rather too perfectly lifts, guides and deposits a particular object from here to there). Allow the movie that bit of whimsy and, once set in motion, the story, direction and performances are all of such a piece that there is simply no turning back--for us or for the main character.

That writer/director Gela Babluani and his brother George, who stars, are Georgian Russians may give you some sense of the pain and hopelessness in store for both the characters and viewers in this update of The Most Dangerous Game by way of the eastern émigré experience in western Europe. What you can hardly expect from this first full-length feature, however, is Babluani's mastery of visuals, sound, pacing, performance--and just about everything else that goes into good moviemaking. "Bravo!" you may want to cry, as you pop a Prozac.



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Posted by cphillips at February 21, 2007 2:14 PM
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