by Fabien Lemercier
- A thunderous entry for a director fascinated by the obscure corners of the human spirit. A directing style that jolts, in a clandestine world where survival depends on a game of Russian roulette
A cult film! 27 years old, Gela Baluani, the filmmaker of Georgian origin, who moved to France twelve years ago, made his first feature 13 (Tzameti) [+see also:
interview: Fanny Saadi
interview: Gela Babluani
film profile], a powerful visual and narrative work that is attracting the attention of the entire film business. Kathleen Kennedy, producer (and wife) of Steven Spielberg declared recently that 13 was for her, and her husband, the European revelation of the year. The anointment opens fascinating perspectives for the rest of the career of this young filmmaker, already compared by certain critics to the early Polanski, while others are not hesitating in invoking Hitchcock, Melville, and even Scorsese. It has to be said that 13 made an impact from day one, winning the Future Lion for best first film at the Venice Mostra 2005, then the Grand Prix at Sundance Festival 2006. And before this triumphant arrival into the closed circle of the 7th art, the film managed to transform itself from medium to feature length which convinced the investors (among the main ones MK2). A collection of exceptional circumstances which match the out of the ordinary nature of 13, whose subject matter cannot be disassociated from the strong personality of the author, son of a filmmaker who a Silver Bear at Berlin in 1993 and a young man whose maturity was accelerated by his experience of the extreme violence reigning in Georgia after the fall of the Berlin wall. Because survival and its antithesis, Death, is the main thread of 13 whose main line takes on the apparel of the thriller, of the cop chase, in order to deploy a vision of a hellish world, ruled, behind closed doors, by the crazed desire for money.
Plunging the sleepl-deprived spectator into his very dark conception of humanity, Gela Babluani retraces the strange misadventures into which Sébastien (played by Georges Babluani, brother of the director) finds himself propelled. This young immigrant lives off building jobs at people’s houses, where one day he overhears a conversation that promises riches and danger. Led by fate (a letter that flies off, an overdose), intrigue follows our hero, who, blindly, takes on the identity of a dead man, following the instructions for the dead man to help him avoid the police who are keeping up a discreet surveillance. Arriving at a plush villa hidden in the forest, he becomes, with no means of escape, participant n°13 in a cruel game of Russian roulette. In an atmosphere charged with the mounting pile of bodies, the games of the heavy betters, in a climate of animal passion where only survival counts, the drugged players become murderers against their will, become part of the crime and both victim and executioner, trapped by an implacable wheel of fortune, an occult system which governs the madness. But beyond the brutality of this voyage into the heart of human darkness, Gela Babluani also manages to impose a fascinating visual style, modern inheritor of a laconic Soviet cinema, based solely on the power of the images. Filmed in black and white and in Cinemascope, 13 (Tzameti) also brings together an impressive rogue’s gallery of "characters" from which the Aurélien Recoing emerges. A sense of casting, suspense in the storytelling, virtuosity in the directing and scientific sense of rhythm: Gela Babluani proves that he has more than one string to his bow, a seductive cinematic potential supported by an iron will which could very quickly propel him into much larger projects.
(Translated from French)
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