Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pretentious Foreign Film

I'll protect you from yourself and not show you why I was at the Film Forum this afternoon. I'll tell you, though: After reading a few vague reviews, I saw the trailer for this super-obscure black-and-white French thriller 13 (Tzameti) and I absolutely had to see it. A word about the Film Forum — most movie theaters, like the UltraMegaGigantoPlex you've got off the highway, are part of the Hollywood system, owned by those media mega-conglomerates and a roster of shareholders, and that's why they've got fifty-seven screens and only four different movies playing. The Film Forum, on the other hand, has a board of benefactors, snooty people who purchase art and appear in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, so they show movies that make straight-to-DVD crap shows with titles like "Evil Dentist IV" (it answers all the questions left over at the end of "Evil Dentist III") look commercially viable. Okay, here's one of the trailers we had to sit through — and normally, I love the trailers, but coming soon to the Film Forum, it's Lunacy by Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer. Yes, the Jan Svankmajer.

I failed "Inscrutable European Symbolism 101" in college, so you'll have to excuse my ignorance, but…what the hell is this movie about?! There's a tableau, and someone playing with uncooked beef or something, and I'm just so confused. Why won't that guy be laughing long? What's up with the patriotic midget, and the guy who wants to be left alone, and I don't get what Edgar Allen Poe has to do with any of this. It's like Twin Peaks mated with a Calvin Klein ad, and they had kids who all mated with each other, and Lunacy is the hideously deformed offspring, only more abstruse. I'm sorry, does that make me thick? Maybe I need to see Material Girls as penance.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Film Forum. Goatees get twenty percent off.

Anyway, 13 (Tzemati) – don't kid yourself, the title doesn't mean shit – has a twisted game of Russian roulette as its central conceit, so once you know this, the first half of the movie leaves you with some solid anticipatory chills as you wait for someone's head to get blown off. My subconscious rushed with images of bloody brain holes and neck stumps looking around for their severed heads, so it's no real shock that I was quickly disappointed. What makes me wish for my ten dollar admission back was that the movie, which the Hollywood Reporter calls "an intense and claustrophobic thriller," is so godawfully boring. Like, the first round of Russian roulette, you're sort of into it, and the director Géla Babluani drags the scene out about as long as it can go, but by the fourth round... I was feeling, "Could we just get this over with? I've got stuff to do." You wouldn't believe how insanely tedious a movie where wealthy businessmen bet on a game of Russian roulette played by drugged up day-laborers can be, but a gunshot lasts all of two milliseconds and the rest of the movie is the dullest snuff film ever.

So now I'm pissed at the 83% of critics who liked the movie, found it nail-biting or pulse-pounding or whatever, and encouraged me to go. Like this review, which was posted in the Film Forum lobby next to the poster for 13 (Tzemati):

"Lustrous black and white with the look of a neo-noir. An elegant thunderbolt of a film! Throat-grabbingly effective!"
Jay Carr, AM New York
It's called a complete sentence, dude. You get a sweet gig watching movies for a living, and the least you could do is write your little blurbs with both subjects and predicates. "Throat-grabbingly effective," really? That's a clause about one step above Homer Simpson quality, and I'm surprised this Carr asshole didn't end his review with "Screw Flanders."

Incidentally, I found Carr's full review online, and while I still think he put more effort into the star rating than the review's actual content, it's better than the Film Forum would suggest. I can't find the words "elegant thunderbolt" anywhere in the text.