From the Chicago Reader (September 8, 2006). — J.R.
* (Has redeeming facet)
Directed and written by Gela Babluani
With Georges Babluani, Olga Legrand, Philippe Passon, Aurelien Recoing, Vania Vilers, and Nicolas Pignon
An English-language remake of this French thriller is already in development. But the film recycles so much I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get recycled in turn.
Fight Club has been cited as one of the key models for Gela Babluani’s 13 (Tzameti), but Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975) seems far more relevant, at least for its first half. In The Passenger an American journalist (Jack Nicholson) on an aborted assignment in North Africa encounters the corpse of a man he met earlier in his hotel and decides on impulse to take over the man’s identity, turning up for all of his appointments and seeing what happens. They lead into espionage and arms sales for a terrorist group, and as the journalist proceeds to Spain to keep the appointments, he does his best to elude people who are chasing him down in one or the other of his two identities.
The hero of 13 (Tzameti), a 22-year-old Georgian laborer named Sebastien (Georges Babluani, a younger brother of the filmmaker), struggling in a French seaside town to support his family, is replacing the roof of a neighbor’s house when he overhears that the neighbor (Philippe Passon), a feeble morphine addict, is expecting a package in the mail that will make him and his wife (Olga Legrand) wealthy.… Read more »
This allegorical thriller has already inspired plans for an English-language remake, perhaps because the story, for all its seeming novelty, is comfortably shopworn. A Georgian laborer in a French coastal town learns that his elderly neighbor plans to earn a fortune through some obscure agreement. After the neighbor dies of an overdose, the Georgian intercepts a letter meant for the deceased, and its instructions lead him to a Parisian gambling den where the patrons wager on elaborate games of Russian roulette. Shot in black-and-white ‘Scope, this first feature by Georgian writer-director Gela Babluani is mechanical in both its suspense and its pessimism. In French and Georgian with subtitles. 86 min. (JR)… Read more »
Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart play a former couple who meet at a Manhattan wedding and wind up having a one-night stand in her hotel room. Gabrielle Zevin’s script borders on the pedestrian, but it’s made to seem unorthodox because of director Hans Canosa’s split-screen technique, which usually features adjacent or overlapping simultaneous views of the two characters and occasionally flashbacks or subjective imaginings alongside the present action. Oddly theatrical, this method seems a poor cousin of staging in the theater, which offers the audience a wider range of things to observe; despite the resourcefulness of the two leads, the movie finally registers as much ado about very little. R, 84 min. (JR)… Read more »
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, a Yorkshire miner (John Lynch) and his wife (Samantha Morton) regretfully sell their beautiful collie to a local duke (Peter O’Toole) who takes it to northern Scotland. This turn of events grieves their young son (Jonathan Mason), but the dog escapes and makes its way home. Like the MGM classic Lassie Come Home, this handsome 2005 English feature was adapted from the novel by Eric Knight, and it’s a welcome throwback to the carefully crafted family films of the studio era. The scenery is lovely, and the cast is entirely worthy of the enterprise (including the regal and athletic star). Writer-director Charles Sturridge overplays the nastiness of a comic villain but more than makes up for it with a wonderful episode involving a traveling puppeteer (Peter Dinklage). PG, 99 min. Crown Village 18, River East 21.… Read more »