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The terrible game of life is boiled down to its essentials in this new film from 26-year-old Georgian director Gela Babluani, who makes a stunning debut with what might yet become a classic. It is a story about gambling, about the tyranny of luck, the shortness of life and about the most insidious form of envy: the envy of the old for the young.

Tzameti is made in grainy monochrome, and shot on a tight budget. Babluani's storytelling talent is coupled to a sharply tuned visual sense; he transcribes lived-in faces on screen with a gift akin to that of a portraitist or still photographer. What unfolds is not just an accomplished arthouse film, but an unendurably tense thriller. The action begins calmly, even torpidly, before fate lands its horrible blow, disguised as an opportunity. Sebastien (George Babluani) is a Georgian immigrant builder in France, repairing the roof of a shabby house inhabited by Godon (Philippe Passon), a malevolent morphine addict. Godon dies unexpectedly before settling up with Sebastien, who on an angry and vengeful whim steals a letter belonging to his late employer, containing a hotel reservation, a rail ticket and instructions that appear to offer the chance of riches. Galvanised with excitement, Sebastien impersonates Godon, unaware that he is getting mixed up in someone else's Faustian bargain. He is taken to a remote country house where he must take part in a horrific gambling conspiracy of jaded high-rollers in which the stakes are life or death.

Tzameti resembles Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's metaphysical gambler's movie Intacto, from 2001, and like that film has literary antecedents in Borges's Babylon Lottery and MR James's Casting the Runes, although conceived on simpler lines than any of these. With its bulbous-nosed, cauliflower-eared toughs and its watchful cops, it is the kind of film that might have intrigued Jean-Pierre Melville, or perhaps Stanley Kubrick, the Kubrick both of The Killers and of the underrated Eyes Wide Shut. And it looks a little like David Fincher's Fight Club, but with what is a more satisfying final act. This compelling film could well be remade by Hollywood. Make sure you see the original right now.
Date Added: 05/03/2013 by Sebastien
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