Saturday, June 10, 2006

SIFF diary 2006, part 4

13 (Tzameti)

It is a shame that one doesn't usually step into a theater with absolutely no idea about the movie that is about to start. Sometimes, I suspect I do myself a disservice with all of the research, reading reviews, watching trailers. I never go into a film without expectations. And I'm very pleased that I didn't know anything about 13, beyond it being a thriller from France that a few people at IMDB seemed to like.

At the beginning, nothing is revealed except that Sébastien is a young immigrant working on the roof of a man with a morphine addiction and some mysterious connections with some kind of underground activity. After eavesdropping on a conversation, Sébastien ends up in the possession of a ticket that could make him a large sum. How, he hasn't a clue, but he follows the directions landing himself in a "game" where he could stand to earn some money, but also is in no position to back out, once he has arrived at this destination.

I'm being careful here not to reveal anything, because the film would lose all tension and effectiveness if you know where Sébastien is going and what happens there. I'll just say that once he gets there, and the game begins, it is a bit of a thrill to watch. This is a very simple film with an obvious set up, but is still very effective. My only complaint is with the anticlimactic ending. After the buildup, I was hoping for the main characters to be a bit more clever. I wanted an ending that would live up to the intensity of the game, instead of the quiet ending that 13 delivers.

My other disappointment is the rumor that the rights to this film have already been bought by a major Hollywood studio and a remake is underway. 13 is still playing festivals, why has a remake already been initiated before the film has shown anywhere? Somehow, despite my annoyance at the last minutes of 13, I doubt the Hollywood studio system will improve upon it. Especially since they will abandon the most affective element, the gritty, old school black and white cinematography that really adds to the dark intensity of the game sequences. I just do see a "major studio" releasing this kind of film without turning it into a well polished thriller with major stars and that something will be lost in the translation. Try to catch the original, before the Hollywood corruption occurs.

4 of 5

Blood Rain

This has been the biggest disappointment of SIFF, 2006. I really hoped that this would be a fascinating film, or at the very least engaging and entertaining. Instead, I struggled with this film for two long hours, fighting off yawns and forcing my eyelids open. Not at all what I expected from a film from South Korea that the Seattle PI felt the need to warn audiences about the brutal violence.

But Blood Rain should have been an interesting and entertaining period murder mystery, that shared some commonalities with In the Name of the Rose. There was a detective and plenty of characters with motivations to commit the brutal murders that were plaguing the region. But instead of being a gripping or at least an entertaining murder mystery, I found the film overly long and confusing, due to the key plot turns being told entirely in dialog, the confusing Korean names, and very poorly executed flashbacks. I would have expected a film based on manga to be more visual, and less dialog driven. And I don't take issue with dialog driven films, but this one just did not work and desperately needed to show us something.

2 of 5

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