This black and white (and
mostly very, very black) French psychological thriller created a huge stir
in Cannes and deservedly so. 13 (Tzameti) is written and
directed by a young (26-years old) auteur who enters the filmmaking
game with the assurance of a Hitchcock or a Kubrick. He straddles a
few styles before coming to a truly disturbing nearly-45-minute sequence
which emphasizes the blind luck and unspeakable cruelty of life.
Part of the fascination of
the movie is that, like its hero, we never know where exactly the story is
going until it is way too late to do anything.
Strangely, in the
beginning, the film seems so much different than it will become. It
seems like a harsh treatise on economical despair -- and in it's own way it
stays that course as the film becomes more and more horrifying.
Georges Babluani plays
Sebastien, a poor but loving family man who is working hard to help support
his mother, brother and sister-in-law in a run down French beach community.
Amongst his many odd jobs is working to fix the roof of a quarrelling
couple. The man is a numbed drug addict. The wife a beautiful
but nagging harpy.
While working around the
house, Sebastien overhears enough to figure out that the man has taken on
some mysterious job which is extremely prosperous and yet still seems to
terrify the man. When he dies of an overdose (we never really know if
it is accidental or not) and the wife cannot pay for the work Sebastien has
done, the worker decides to take an envelope which has a train ticket to
Paris and a registration for a hotel room.
the trip and the junkie's identity to perform the job himself, not quite realizing he has taken over
another man's deal with the devil.
Here the film becomes like
one of Hitchcock's wrong man thrillers as police and a cadre of tough
looking hoods start following the young man as he follows a long and convoluted trail
across France to the mysterious employment.
Once he finally finds
himself plunked down in the middle of the job he has found a hell of
violence, death, decadence, gambling, amorality and drug abuse. I
won't reveal exactly what happens in that secluded country home -- that is
half of the fun and all of the power of 13 (Tzameti). Just know
that it is a show of all that is worst in the idly rich and the merciless.
This film will undoubtedly
be remade in English, but I can't see Hollywood capturing the dank
desperation and horror of this very original film. Don't wait around
for some young shark to defang the story for general audiences. See
this jaw-droppingly chilling film now.