Moviegoers with a real taste for film noir, especially the French variety, should enjoy “13 Tzameti,” a hypnotic new thriller by writer-director Gela Babluani, which will be shown beginning Friday, Jan. 5 at the Smith Opera House.
Creating a mood that suggests an unholy mix of Czech novelist Franz Kafka, American pulp fictionist Jim Thompson and French heist moviemaker Jean-Pierre Melville, Babluani's story is about the perils of get-rich-quick schemes. It's also a movie about crime, fate, death, revolvers, train rides and luck.
The central character, Sebastien (played by Georges Babluani, the director's brother) is a poor Georgian immigrant, who, while working as a roof repairer on the house of a drug addict/crook neighbor named Godon (Philippe Passon), overhears talk of a huge score the crook may be making soon.
When Godon overdoses on morphine, Sebastien impulsively decides to move in, stealing Godon's train tickets and instructions and intending to show up at the job — whatever it is — in the dead man's place. From then on, “13” (which translates in Georgian as “Tzameti” and pronounced 'zah-meti') keeps turning the screws relentlessly, sending Sebastien on a nail-biting train ride, surrounding him with crooks and cops and putting him smack into the deadly, terrible contest that Godon had entered.
Tinged with Russian fatalism and French existentialist irony, “13” is shot in black and white, as a classic noir should be, in huge moody wide-screen images that recall some of the great noirs of the late '50s and `60s. Gela has already taken major awards at the Sundance and Venice festivals.
The film may be seen beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5, Saturday the 6th, Monday the 8th and Tuesday the 9th, and at a 2 p.m. matinée on Sunday Jan. 7.
In French with English subtitles, it runs 1:26 and is not rated. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens and are available at the door.