Monday, November 29, 2010

13 Tzameti (2005)

Stark, straightforward French drama about a house-painter who gets fired, and becomes complicit in his former client's illegal activities. The plot, and watching it develop, is the principal joy here; the writing feels real and terse, without giving away anything the audience cannot infer on their own. The black and white cinematography contributes to the neo-realist vibe, allowing for expressionistic and stylized compositions without sacrificing the direct honesty of the piece. The acting is very strong, and, as is common in French productions aware; everyone knows what their part and function is, and deliver their performances in simple, subtle strokes. The central figure of the house-painter is particularly well-cast, exhibiting both amorality and vulnerability in varying degrees, as many of us do regularly in day-to-day life. The worst thing the film has going against it is the impending American remake, starring Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke and Ray Winstone. The slow, deliberate plotting is decidedly un-Hollywood, and I sense that the pleasure of slowly figuring out what the hell is going on will be even more lost once the advertising, beyond the blatantly revealing logline, conveys all the key beats in the first half. Nonetheless, this original currently stands as a terrific example of contemporary French neo-realism, and a very strong, very real crime film.

Highly Recommended for terse, realistic French crime films a la Man Bites Dog. Anyone with any interest in the upcoming remake should check it out first, as, I am sure, the focus there will not be what is key here, namely the deliberate development of the plot.

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