Back Comments (1) Share:
This film could only be made somewhere far from the destructive clutches of Hollywood, like say... France. In a time when much of mainstream cinema features celebrities in lieu of actors while being edited like MTV on speed, Hollywood cares little about making a film like this one. Everything that is right in this movie illustrates everything that is missing from the studio executive-bred trash audiences are fed, year after year. Just think, Biker Boyz opened in America on 1,766 screens and this film didn't open at all. If that's not cinematic injustice, I don't know what is. Now come with me, as we explore an instant classic of French cinema named Tzameti( 13 from here on.)

13 (Tzameti)
Feature
13 tells the story of young Sebastien, living with his poverty-stricken family trying to make ends meet as a roofer. His latest job is to repair the roof of Jean-François, a morphine addict. While on the rooftop of François's house, he overhears a conversation he's having with another man. Apparently Jean-François is expecting a letter in the mail that will somehow allow him to come into a great deal of money. Details are vague, and at this point—Sebastien could care less.

The next day, Jean-François receives his letter and sits it on a window ledge—moments before dying from his addiction. Fate would have it that a gust of wind blows the envelope from the window and onto Sebastien's roofing tools below. Since Jean-François is dead, there is no need for Sebastien to continue repairing the roof and he looses the job without any compensation. While packing up his tools, an extremely disheartened Sebastien finds the letter and contained inside is a train ticket. At this point in life Sebastien hasn't much elsewhere to go and decides to embark on the late addict's venture in search of economic gain.

13 (Tzameti)
Now en route to the mystery destination, Sebastien is entering a world of murder and corruption he may never be able to escape from. He finds that by going to this destination he has taken Jean-François's place as a participant in a game that pits him against twelve other players, where the winner acquires wealth and the losers die. The rich and powerful flock to this game to bid high dollar amounts on the player they think can survive the four rounds of this sick atrocity.

I'm afraid I've told all that I can about this brilliant gem without spoiling the film to any readers who've not yet experienced it. The best way to give you an idea of 13 is to relate it to Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game and Fight Club. Amazingly, this is director Géla Babluani's debut feature film, having one major short underneath is belt prior to 13. If this is a starting point for Balani's career—I await with great anticipation his future works.

13 is a film that takes it's sweet time to reveal itself, to unfold before it's audience. Not many films attempt the slow pacing of 13, opting to reveal their plots much earlier on. I respect the director for taking his time to create such a well-crafted thriller and not rushing things. Cinematography is captivatingly well done as the camera is always moving. For the duration of the entire first act, the viewer is clueless to the overall plot.  We are merely observing and gathering information as we go, and not once did my attention waver. The movie's visuals were enough to keep me fully interested when I hadn't a clue what was going on.

13 (Tzameti)
At the center of 13 is Sebastien, played by George Babluani in a gripping performance. This is also Babluani's first feature film performance and again—with such a strong debut—I eagerly await to see him on screen again. He nearly carries the entire picture on his shoulders. I say nearly because the film gains so much from its strong supporting cast, from the game participants to the wealthy and corrupt. I'd love to name them all off and praise their performances but I'm not familiar with French actors and there are few character's names mentioned.

Video
13 is presented in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen and is a difficult film to critique visually. Shot on black and white film, 13 features a picture plagued by grain in every pixel of blackness. I can't tell how much of the video quality is intentionally grainy for stylistic purposes and how much can be attributed to picture quality. To re-enforce the noir feel of the film, blacks are in high contrast and look fantastic that way.

I'm by no means complaining about the amount of grain as it looks gritty and fits right in. If 13 were cleaned up and polished it wouldn't have the same dirty feel to it; the style would be lost. From this, I can only say that even when it's not intended to; 13 looks good enough for this reviewer.

13 (Tzameti)
Audio
13 is fitted with a Dolby Digital 2.0 French track. The movie doesn't sound great, but it's not exactly set up to. It employs such a visually based method of storytelling that it could almost work as a silent feature, were it not for the dialogue-laden beginning and ending. Music never takes centre stage, so aside from sound effects and short snippets of dialogue there isn't much to listen to. Consequently, the audio track is far from impressive.

Extras
The press release that came bundled with the DVD screener claims that the extras portion of the DVD includes ‘Interviews with the cast & crew’, but they're nowhere to be found on my copy. My copy is entirely comprised of a main menu screen with a singular option: Play Movie.

Since I don't interpret ‘interviews’ to be any kind of documentary on the film but rather a handful (maybe twenty minutes?) of talking heads, I'm going to judge the disc based on that alone. It's not enough supplemental material. Where's the trailer? This film made a killing at film festival, why no coverage? I bet an audio commentary (even if in French) would've been fascinating.

13 (Tzameti)
Overall
13 is the kind of brilliant film that won't have to wait years to become a cinematic classic; it already is. If you're in the mood for a chilling thriller rooted in noir, pick this film up. If you live outside of region two, order it from overseas if you must—it's worth it. Unfortunately, this release of 13 isn't on the same level of excellence that the film is and leaves much to be desired.


Links: