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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable
13 Tzameti is a surprising and memorable film that references but does not plagiarise other works while mining a distinct character of its own. Shot in stark monochrome, it opens in a bleak French coastal town where Sebastian, a young Georgian immigrant, is working as a handyman to help support his down-at-heel family. He is hired to work at the house of a woman and her...
Published on 7 Mar 2006 by Demob Happy

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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's alright.
This film is someone's twist on Russian Roulette. That's it. That's the catalyst and the plot. The film is about nothing else and nothing else happens.

A young man working on some drug addict's house steals a letter from him. The letter eventually leads to the young man becoming embroiled in a Hostel-style underworld of gambling on people's lives. Yes, the...
Published on 18 Jun 2007 by J. Pierson


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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable, 7 Mar 2006
This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
13 Tzameti is a surprising and memorable film that references but does not plagiarise other works while mining a distinct character of its own. Shot in stark monochrome, it opens in a bleak French coastal town where Sebastian, a young Georgian immigrant, is working as a handyman to help support his down-at-heel family. He is hired to work at the house of a woman and her drug addict partner, who he sees staggering out of his mind on a beach and later dies in the bathtub of an apparent overdose. During his time at the house Sebastien overhears some of his employers' murky criminal life and troubled finances, and - fearing that he won't be paid for the job - steals a train ticket and a letter of instructions addressed to his dead boss that he assumes will earn him some money. This begins a bizarre set of circumstances for the young man that I won't spoil by revealing here. Whereas the offbeat, dislocated opening could be misconstrued for something belonging to the pretentious avant-garde, what transpires is part film noir, part surreal nightmare in the mold of Bunuel, with minor similarities to The Deer Hunter and Eyes Wide Shut. However, the film is made in relatively good (though very black) humour, and its protagonist - who rarely speaks - is brilliant as the unwitting innocent.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A philosophically dark, emotionally intense, mesmerizing thriller, 14 Feb 2007
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
13 Tzameti is an outstanding, emotionally visceral film from first-time director Gela Babluani, a gripping, mesmerizing tour de force of cinematic expression that collars you in an ever-tightening noose of nervous tension and quickly engulfs you completely in its dark atmosphere. It's so rare for a film to come along and actually succeed at putting you on edge - 13 Tzameti, though, truly delivers the goods. It's not hard to see why the film garnered the award for Best First Feature at the Venice Film Festival and walked away with the World Cinema Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

I'm not going to go into detail in terms of the plot, as the film is much more effective if you the viewer descend alongside the main character into the depths of civilized depravity. It starts innocently enough, with young Sebastien (George Babluani) doing some repair work on a certain gentleman's roof. While he is working, he overhears this man talking about a letter he is expecting, a letter detailing an opportunity to make a great deal of money. Fate would seemingly have it that this letter would fall into the hands of Sebastien, and he makes the decision to pursue its mysterious promise himself, despite the fact he has no clue what it relates to. (As an immigrant, struggling to take care of his family, he decides to take the risk.) All he finds in the envelope is a train ticket and a hotel ticket, but these start him on a journey filled with cryptic clues, clandestine movements, and deepening mystery. At the end of that journey, when he finally realizes just what he has gotten himself in to, he has no choice but to play everything out. Play is the operative word here because Sebastien finds himself to be a player in a high-stakes game of chance, a game in which the losers pay the ultimate price. As the number of players shrinks and the stakes rise with each round, the intensity of each succeeding moment approaches levels rarely seen - especially recently - in cinema.

On the most basic level, the plot isn't all that complicated, but director Gela Babluani builds his story upon a deep foundation of nuance, subtlety, and philosophical meaning - conjuring up some poignant insight into human nature in the process. There's definitely an existential aspect to the whole story. At one point, when the climax really begins to build, one character implores his player to approach the game philosophically - and I feel he could just as easily be speaking to the audience when he says this.

The cinematography of 13 Tzameti is well-nigh perfect. It's always a joy to see a director eschew color for black and white, and the stark medium of the latter is all but demanded by the noir-ish atmosphere and stark philosophical implications of the story. It is difficult to believe this is director Gela Babluani's first feature film because he seems to have established control over every aspect of every shot. This is the kind of movie-making that would warm the cockles of Alfred Hitchcock's heart (not that I'm comparing Babluani to Hitchcock, of course).

The DVD comes with an impressive array of special features, most of which further illuminate the powerful messages conveyed in this multi-layered film. Even the deleted scenes contribute to your understanding of the film - but not so much as the interviews with director Gela Babluani and actors Georges Babluani and Aurelien Recoing. I was essentially blown away by Recoing's incredibly detailed observations and insights into his character and the film itself. He plays a somewhat savage character in the film, but Recoing sounds as if he could easily be teaching film criticism at some prestigious university. Even more insight into the film is provided by director Gela Babluani as he discusses the kind of oppressive life his family left in Soviet Georgia in order to enjoy the unknown freedoms offered by France. That experience, as he indicates, definitely played a part in his vision for 13 Tzameti. Additional insight into the game itself is provided by the "testimony of a survivor." I was expecting to see some broken-willed man bewailing the horror of the game, but the subject of this fascinating interview seems to live for the danger and excitement of his obsession. The DVD also comes with a short film called Sunday's Game that correlates extremely well (albeit with much more shock value) with the contents of the feature film.

Without a doubt, 13 Tzameti is one of the most gripping, intense, and memorable films I've seen in quite a long time. It's dark, cynical nature won't appeal to some individuals, but those who feel compelled to plunge the depths of man's inhumanity and like their thrillers truly intense will be amply rewarded by the power and depth of this film.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's alright., 18 Jun 2007
By 
J. Pierson "joe_pierson" (Essex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
This film is someone's twist on Russian Roulette. That's it. That's the catalyst and the plot. The film is about nothing else and nothing else happens.

A young man working on some drug addict's house steals a letter from him. The letter eventually leads to the young man becoming embroiled in a Hostel-style underworld of gambling on people's lives. Yes, the pivotal scenes are gripping, but one would have to be a staggeringly inept director not to make them so. The good idea, the twist on Russian roulette, covers a large amount of the running time. I've read a few other reviews that talk about existentialism and the philosophical nuances of this film. Which sounds good. The problem with existentialism is that it is brutally simplistic- existence is harrowing. Existentialism has been a formal artistic consideration for some time now and, personally, I no longer find it sufficient to construct what resembles an existential platform but do nothing new with it. This looks quite harrowing, it is dark, it places its characters in a difficult position. But nothing new is being said. One of the gamblers keeps asking his player to consider his position philosophically. Ever intent, I took this as a heavy-handed hint to do likewise. And ended up scratching my head. Existentialism is a circular consideration- you need ferocious intelligence to break it and give us something new. It's best expression is in Dostoyevsky and Camus. This film just kind of goes through the motions, it says, 'check out how dark these circumstances I've contrived are' and then walks away, apparently satisfied.

It's shot in black and white. The beginning scenes are slow and sombre in a typically French-arthouse manner. The pivotal scenes, as I said, were gripping, though populated exclusively by stereotypes (soulless gamblers who exhibit no human qualities, a couple of psycho-brothers for good measure) and it creates this atmosphere which I think is the reason for its acclaim. It's an atmosphere of dark nihilism, of hopelessness. But I find it difficult to commend a film just for achieving such an atmosphere. It's one-dimensional and unenlightening. It's shallow and superficial and it's only the fact that it's French and black and white and nihilistic that its one-dimensional-ness is excused, even praised. It's an easy movie- given the central idea anyone could have made this film. There's nothing distinctive about it beyond the striking premise. It's a one-trick pony. It's an interesting trick, but it's not enough for me.

Everyone likes a good bit of grimy, gloomy, violent shock. If you're looking for a slice, this one will disappoint. It is too tame, too bland, in all but circumstance. What you see is mildly shocking, but there's nothing else here. Buy Man Bites Dog or Funny Games instead.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A talent to watch, 14 Mar 2006
By 
Stephen Newton (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
With 13 (Tzameti), debutante director Géla Babluani demonstrates an impressive command of cinematic convention and builds a near perfect thriller. Shot as if it were a fifty year old Noir relic, 13 remains a contemporary depiction of a dying nihilistic world.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a shame, 14 Dec 2007
By 
Mr. P. S. Bond (Merseyside, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
The concept of this film is brilliant, and the black and white cinematography is great. However all suspense is ruined simply by the fact that the story only invests in once character, so it wouldn't take a genius to guess who is going to come out of this thing alive.

It could've been greatly improved by following the stories of all the contestants, showing how and why they are there, that way it would have been a bit more gripping.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Takes you completely by surprise!, 13 Aug 2013
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I won't give the game away, but this movie really does take you by surprise! I would hate to be in this situation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Son's opinion, 27 Jun 2013
By 
Helier John (Birmingham, England, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I have to rely on my son's opinion on this video and the others that I purchased. He has told me that the storyline was quite good and he thought that the actors played their respective parts very well. Myself I am well pleased to be able to purchase videos at a bargain price from Amazon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, 1 Jun 2013
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This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Such an amazing film! classic moody french cinema. If you're into that sort of thing and havn't seen it then you must!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understated excellence, 5 Aug 2006
This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
An intriguing film shot in black and white (ideal) with a minimalist style (also ideal) and a nihilistic tone that adds to the intrigue and sharpens the mysterious facets that make this film such a pleasure to watch. The film conveys much without ever making it obvious, and can be taken on any number of levels. Highly unusual, atmospheric, noirish, and highly recommended. The acting is good, too.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unlucky for some, 12 July 2011
This review is from: 13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
13 Tzameti is a film that, ultimately, never quite reaches the heights that it threatens to in its mysterious and impressively open-ended first half an hour or so. A young man follows instructions meant for someone else in looking for a way out of his dead-end job and to provide a better living for his poor family, and unwittingly ends up in a deadly underworld game.

It starts off Hitchcockian but ends up in Fincher/Roth territory before a lazy and contrived climax that suggests that Gela Babluani, the director, did not quite know how to finish it. If he had managed to piece together something a little meatier and we had seen the fates or possible fates of some of the other characters, especially that of the police investigator who, in the end, adds nothing to the plot, then it would have been wholly more satisfying. The film's biggest flaw though is to only follow one character in this 'game' as this takes away much of the suspense once the 'games' begin.

That said, it's still a short, sharp little thriller that, despite its two major flaws, is very well shot and acted, cleverly using black and white, and suggests that Babluani could be one to watch. Well worth 85 minutes of most people's time, I reckon.
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13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006]
13 Tzameti [DVD] [2006] by Géla Babluani (DVD - 2006)
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