13 Tzameti (2006)

Géla Babluani, Director.

***SPOILERS***

The title in Georgian: “13 Thirteen”

Genre: Violence porn.

The director’s excuse: “I was raised in the 90s in Georgia when there were three civil wars. I was exposed to chaos. To violence. And that’s not even counting the TV shows I watched.”

The pitch: “Blood Sport” meets Texas Holdem meets “Deer Hunter” meets early Roman Polanski.

Reviewers’ suggested metaphors: “The inhumanity that comes with wealth and boredom, and desperate attempts to survive in a place that’s simultaneously culturally and geographically alien.” “An indictment of the futility and folly of putting too much metaphysical stock (belief in fate and destiny) in what is a fundamentally meaningless pursuit (sports).” So forth.

The lead actor’s excuse: “I had never done a movie before but my brother was the director, so…”

The director’s reward: Financing to remake the movie in Hollywood.

NRA rating: A+. Guns do not kill in this movie; actors kill.

Budget: The director filmed for 5 months over a 15-month period. Script calls for a castle but all he could line up was a big house, occasioning dialog such as “We used to do this in a castle.” (Doesn’t help the “rich getting richer” metaphor.)

First sign of silliness: Picture yourself on a tile roof, pulling off tiles. Somehow you manage to punch a hole in the roof (Rififi homage). Every time you walk by it, characters below are discussing plot points, which you can hear clearly.

Second sign of silliness: Vital papers blow out of the window and land where the hero can find them.

Third sign of silliness: He doesn’t give them back.

Hiding the silliness: The director did some filming to make the ceiling hole somehow more believable, but he wisely left this work in the Deleted Scenes section.

Subtlety: “There is an ax on the terrace,” says the woman. The ax is not used later in the film.

Music: Mostly silence w/ ambient sounds. The occasional quiet jazz nudge. Great.

Characterization: None to speak of.

Color: One sorehead opined that Babluani made the film in black and white because he didn’t want to deal with the problems and challenges of color. Babluani himself says that his first visions of the story were in black and white and so that’s the way he had to make it that way. Works for me, but I’m a lover of black and white.

David Lynch: In some alternate, parallel universe, the police play out their parts in full. In this movie, we can see only parts of that film, intermittantly.

The crowd: Part of the thrill of a public group performance is having a crowd watch it happen. Get lots of interesting faces and dress the actors in all sort of ways. In fact, have them dress at home and just show up. Feast for the eyes. Note that at least one reviewer will crab about this bunch no matter what they look like.

Handicapping: If you’re going to bet on a last-man-standing, mass suicide event, consider the following:

1. Try to bet directly with the men in the event. You’ll only have to pay off one of them.
2. The star of the movie will win.
3. Turns out, two other guys get to survive. One of them will be the really, really fat guy, because the director is not going to ask him to fall down. He might not be able to get up again.
4. The guy who looks like Russell Crowe can’t win, but he can be saintly because after winning three times already (no mean feat when the odds last time were 42-1), he recognizes innocence in his opponent and so doesn’t pull the trigger.
5. When three bullets are used in a six-bullet cylinder, does it matter whether there is a bullet in every other chamber or three bullets in three consecutive chambers? Experiment to find out.
6. Professional betting makes no sense to the amateur. Ditto movie betting.

The good parts: Some reviewers have suggested cutting out the first and last thirds of the movie. The guys who suggest this are the same guys who back in the day read only the good parts of Lady Chatterly. Probably don’t cuddle afterwards. Probably won’t finish reading this review.

The money shots: Ten or fifteen men stand in a circle. They load their guns. Heft and jiggle them. Spin the cylinders. Each man touches his gun to the head of the man in front of him. The goal is for all of them to shoot at once. The bulb lights up. As is often the case, all the participants don’t shoot at the same time. Also as is common, the experience is better for some than for others.

Sweat: The actors must act as if they are really going to be shot in the head. Because of safety issues, live ammunition, and standing there WITH A GUN TO YOUR HEAD, most of them weren’t acting.

Variations: Each round has to be different, or boredom sets in. (Some reviewers, who have seen too much of this kind of thing, will get bored no matter what you do, if you keep it tasteful.) One participant must have trouble loading his gun; one must be unable to pull the trigger; most must be able to perform only when drunk or drugged; etc.

Useful factoids from the film:

1. Morphine is the drug of choice
2. Stop signs in France say “Stop.”
3. Every French film contains the word “personne.”
4. Chief bad guy has same last name as my brother-in-law.
5. When does a Frenchman say “oui” and when does he say “si”?
6. Which country shows the countryside with fewer inhabitants, the U.S. or France?
7. Do European movies understate the bad guys a little for effect, or do U.S. movies overstate the bad guys for effect? Or both?
8. The protagonist has been up a ladder before. He is pretty nimble moving from ladder to roof and from roof to ladder.

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