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Lucky Number 13 (Tzameti)

I suspect that if Quentin Tarantino went bankrupt, spoke French and swallowed a fistful of downers, the result might be something a little like Gela Babluani's nice new film, 13 (Tzameti).

It's hard to talk about the plot without giving away a lot of the tension and surprise that are this film's strength, but basically it boils down to that of a struggling labourer who is trying to help his family make ends meet by fixing the roof of an aging heroin addict's house. While smashing holes in the roof of this house, he overhears the old man talking about an envelope he's waiting to receive in the mail that promises a huge payoff. The day that it arrives, circumstances work out so that the roofer finds the envelope, which he steals. In it he finds a very secretive set of instructions, which he follows to find himself on a very secretive journey, which lands him in a dangerous, and very secretive, mess.

So it's a little slow at the beginning - you're nearly 1/3 the way through the movie before you get into the real meat of the plot - but it pays off. When the long, drawn out climax finally arrives, it sneaks up on you so fast it feels a little like you were hit on the back of the head with a heavy object. The result of this pacing puts you right on par with the main character, suddenly swept into an unwanted and unexpected world that travels at a much faster speed than the one you're used to. And maybe the ending meanders a little - it's all very intentional and full of enough surprises to keep you interested. A little surprise goes a long way in a system of production that often places more importance on the box office receipts from opening weekend than the longevity of a good story.

This movie has been winning awards all over the place, not the least of which was the Grand Jury Prize in World Cinema at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. In my opinion, it also won a much less deserved Best Cinematography at the Transilvania International Film Festival - though to be fair, I haven't seen any of the other entries - they could have been much worse. They could have been shot by strapping cameras to kittens and letting them run around...My point being that this thing really does look like the kind of film you see at a first year film screening at any university or college. It's got a nice "noir" feeling to it, but unintentionally fuzzy camera shots and shadows from overhead equipment are only a few of the problems.

Even so, the movie still won me over.

If you like the stories Tarantino writes and can do without all the snazzy stuff, you'll like this movie. It's a breath of fresh air from the fast cuts, tight shirts and "thrills, spills and chills" that could be expected from a story of this nature.

The film probably won't see wide release here, so check your local listings for more information.


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