This month’s selection is the 2005 French film 13 Tzameti.
Struggling immigrant Sebastien (Georges Babluani) steals a dead man’s identity in order to make some easy cash. Unfortunately for him, he unknowingly enters into an underground gambling ring – where players bet their lives!
This film has a lot in common with my first non-horror selection Day Night, Day Night. It is simple, brimming with intensity and requires an investment of patience from the viewer. Once again, I will let the trailer sell the premise for you.
As you can imagine, 13 Tzameti has several hold-your-breath moments. It is a bare bones thriller that deserves an audience because it is a throwback to an old school style of filmmaking and I don’t just mean the black and white. Director and writer Géla Babluani (older brother of the film’s star) carefully grounds us in realism before thrusting into the insane world of the ‘game’. I think the scariest thing about the subject matter is that some incarnation of it likely exists out there somewhere. In fact, there is a special feature on the DVD where the filmmakers interview an alleged survivor of such a game.
Some have criticized the film’s pace and while I do agree that the middle act is its strongest, I was always completely ensconced in its dark world. Inevitably, the American remake is on the way, though with Babluani still at the helm. However, unlike Michael Haneke, who remade his own film Funny Games practically shot-for-shot, Babluani intends to avoid that by changing the story and shooting in colour.
If you are in the mood for something dark and subversive, I encourage you to check out 13 Tzameti.