09 November 2006

3rff: Notes from a Festival

13 Tzameti
(Géla Babluani, NR, 86 min, France)

13tzameti

13 Tzameti, the feature-length debut from Géla Babluani, is a taut, engaging thriller that begins simply enough before transforming itself into an unexpected treatise on morality and luck. George Babluani, the brother of the director, stars as Sébastien, a construction worker who overhears his employer's plot to earn a great deal of money for only one day's work. He steals, then follows the elaborate instructions, not realizing the police are following him closely. The work in question: a suicidal, high-stakes game of Russian Roulette that he cannot escape.

The easy comparison here is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's Intacto (2001), but Babluani films in a stark, gritty style that invokes the French New Wave and the best in 16mm short films. The tension is undeniable and the result is a film that after a slow start gets very cool during the second act and, then, oddly enough, somewhat profound. It's not a great film, but for a low-budget first film, it's as good as you can hope for.

4
(Ilya Khrjanovsky, NR, 126 min, Russia)

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There's nothing quite like seeing a film you know nothing about in a festival setting. Zero expectations, coupled with the tendency for festivals to have a less-than-rigorous selection process (since the goal isn't box office, per se, there's sometimes more focus on an ill-defined sense of "art". This is not always a good thing.) Collections of shorts are great in this regard because the films are often either brilliant or terrible (and sometimes both at the once), yet none of them are quite long enough to make you regret coming. There's almost always something worthwhile. Features, however, can be scary, especially if you're like me and hate to walk out, no matter what.

Which brings us to Ilya Khrjanovsky's 4, in which three people meet in a bar, lie about who they are, and leave. It's a compelling, nuanced scene composed of long, steady shots. Polished isn't the right word, but it isn't far off. Then, the film devolves into some sort of statement about the conditions of modern day Russia, full of rotting meat, wild dogs, and long, long, long scenes where old women wail and eat and get drunk. Tedious is exactly the right word. It's pretty clear the contrast between the lies we tell and reality, which is generally the film's main point, but that's a point made clear before the end of the first hour. Apparently the Russian censors wanted to cut an hour from the film, and I can't say I blame them. There's a line where a film ceases to be a cryptic, beautiful mess and becomes nothing short of a clusterfuck. That's the line 4 crosses. It's the type of art film that turns people off art films.

This would be enough if the projectionist didn't improperly frame the vast majority of the film, including two reels framed low enough to make the subtitles nearly impossible to read. I find this happening more and more. Projecting a film properly isn't complicated and screenings like this make me long for the day I can download the film and just watch it at home, where I can at least be confident I'm actually seeing the film I'm supposed to be watching.

15 comments:

johanna said...

so you would watch all films from home, if you could?

lucas said...

if my TV was big enough, yeah, absolutely

johanna said...

i asked mostly b/c of something jenny said last weekend about you not being able to get out, and being pretty home-bound, etc.

for a guy who doesn't have a car, though, you get around a lot more than me.

lucas said...

i do ok

Anonymous said...

I was at this screening!

lucas said...

d'oh...where were you sitting?

Anonymous said...

Hmm... back, right, ground floor, in a group. And I was mucking around in front of the theater and in the lobby before and after 4, 'cuz I know both of the ladies who were handling ticket duties.

lucas said...

i think your group was sitting right in front of me. one of you had like a knit hat with a red cross on it, right?

johanna said...

sigh.

i wish i could go to that thing, but i have play rehearsal...we open this thursday night.

no 3rff for me.

Anonymous said...

Dude, that was me! I hope I didn't bother you any--I'm really not a terribly well-behaved movie buff, what with the getting up and the fruit-eating and all...

lucas said...

well, there were a few moments where i had to shift to read subtitles over the hat, but they were miniscule compared to the time i couldn't read the subtitles at all.

seriously though, fruit is usually much quieter than popcorn, and if you're seeing multiple films a day you gotta eat something.

sometimes i bring a flask, but usually just for comedies...

Thom said...

Lucas, This post made me consider that so far I've watched all of the films for my blog on a widescreen TV, usually alone 'cause it's really hard to convince people to watch stuff from 1912, and I can't help but feel like I'm missing part of the intended experience, that a big part of the fun of watching movies isn't found on the screen at all, but rather comes from being a member of an audience. Even trying to see over Andy's hat...I miss that stuff. Oh, and I love the flask idea too...:D

Anonymous said...

I've definitely brought a bottle of wine to movies before. Multiple times. The night Lost in Translation opened wide I remember in particular: we sat in the second or third row and by the end of the film I felt warmly enveloped by the movie.

This probably accounts for my positive feelings about the movie to at least some extent...

lucas said...

the question for me is this: what's worse, missing part of the experience or missing part of the film?

andy,

do you bring glasses, or just the bottle?

Anonymous said...

Just the bottle. Glasses are too complicated...

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