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  13 Tzameti Unlucky For Some
Year: 2005
Director: Géla Babluani
Stars: George Babluani, Pascal Bongard, Aurélien Recoing, Fred Ulysse, Nicolas Pignon, Vania Vilers, Olga Legrand, Christophe Van de Velde, Augustin Legrand, Jo Prestia, Serge Chambon, Philippe Passon, François Rimbau
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Georgian immigrant Sébastien (George Babluani) is working as a handyman in France, but struggling to feed his family. Money's too tight to mention, but one day he gets a job fixing the roof of a local couple when he notices the male half, Mr Godon (Philippe Passon) stumbling out onto the beach below, closely followed by his partner (Olga Legrand) who hurls insults at him. He is obviously in a drugged state, and the wife asks Sébastien to help her get him back inside, which he does. However, Godon is not long for this world, so who will take his place at a special event he has been contacted about? Sébastien steals the letter with the ticket in it, and embarks on a journey he will regret...

13 Tzameti was the directorial debut of Géla Babluani, and made a splash in the international cinema world thanks to a killer premise (if you'll pardon the pun). Filmed in grainy black and white for maximum depressing atmosphere, it tells the tale of what can happen to men desperate for money, men who are willing to debase themselves just to get by. Our protagonist doesn't think he's one of those people at the start of the film, the thought might not even have crossed his mind as he does odd jobs around the port town, but the value of his life is definitely called into question by the end.

Avoiding "life is cheap" clichés, this is as much a film about luck as it is about money, though the story doesn't really put the blame on Sebastien's misfortune on some cosmic sense of order, he did volunteer for it after all, but it does posit the theory that the experience he endures is through sheer chance, which is a little confused. What happens is that he takes the train tickets and travels out into the countryside where he is told to check in at a hotel and await further instructions. Those instructions are to meet with a group of men at an out of the way site in the forest, but they're not happy to see him.

It's Sébastien who shouldn't be the happy one, because he has landed himself in a deadly game. As all this is about cold hard cash, it's a gambling game and because he opted to take the place of the deceased Godon, the organisers are only too willing to take him on with no opportunity for him to back out now. There are thirteen players of which he is the thirteenth, as indicated by the number on his sweatshirt, and each are handed a gun with one bullet in it. Standing in a circle they are told by the master of ceremonies to spin the chambers and...

Well, let's say it's not going to be a good evening for the majority of those taking part. For the gamblers the stakes may be high, but not as high for those holding the guns. The trouble with this is that unless you believe that Babluani would be willing to kill off his main character halfway through the film, it's not as tense as you'd expect. Perhaps it would have been better to put the event right at the end, because after it's over there's still twenty minutes of plot to get through. The sequences with the guns are well handled, and Sébastien convincingly sticks himself in a situation that he cannot escape from, but as for excitement it's too slack. Perhaps Sébastien was the author of his own luck and it was all bad, as Babluani won't give him a chance once he's made his first mistake.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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