Black and white oddity from France
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.