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Vol. 6, No. 6, 2007
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Robert J. Lewis
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Bernard Dubé
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Robert Rotondo
Sylvain Richard
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Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X

Géla Babluani's

Géla Babluani

reviewed by
Sylvain Richard


It’s only a matter of time before Georgian-born Géla Babluani gets his international due as an emerging director. He already gave us the harrowing 13 Tzameti (2005), which won the World Cinema Dramatic Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award at the Venice Film Festival. And now, he continues that excellent work with the more complicated The Legacy (L’Héritage), which suspensefully deals with long standing family feuds in the context of feuding cultures (French versus Georgian).

from The LegacyWe follow Nikolai (Pascal Bongard), a Georgian translator, who is hired by three French tourists to visit a castle one of them has inherited. On an old rickety bus that takes them through postcard spectacular landscape, they are introduced to some of the local characters who seem to harbour vaguely sinister, malevolent thoughts. When an older man, accompanied by his his grandson (played by George Babluani,) boards the bus with a coffin, the tourists are of course curious, and learn that the coffin is intended for the grandfather, who has agreed to be killed in order to put an end to a longstanding family feud. Thoroughly fascinated by the bizarre circumstance, they decide to tag along in order to video tape the event, but are cautioned not to interfere -- or else. What compels them to tape the event is never explicitly addressed.

To our unsurprise, things go wrong, and then very wrong. Babluani skillfully interweaves the story line and the developing, detail accumulating suspense, but with a distinctly European sensibility. Viewers that have been raised on Hollywood suspense might initially find this film slow going, only to discover that its pacing is of the highest artistic order, one that deserves an approving nod from the master of suspense himself -- Alfred Hitchcock.

Géla Babluani’s agenda is complex, which is why this film is perhaps ultimately more satisfying than 13 Tzameti. As with Franz Kafka, whose protagonist Joseph K. never finds The Castle, the sidetracked tourists never reach their destination. Instead, they are made to confront the backwardness of family feuds that prejudice families against each other over disputes that may have taken place centuries ago.from The Legacy But however indictable is family feuding, the counsel offered by the tourists, who in their conceit take it upon themselves to interfere in traditions about which they know next to nothing, only serves to worsen an already desperate situation. Since they consider themselves more savvy and sophisticated than their primitive Georgian hosts, they assume they have all the right answers for everything. They rudely discover au contraire. Meanwhile, the broader implications of this isolated incident continue to fall on the deaf ears of the inveterately meddling West.

The Legacy, which was featured at the 2007 Cinémania Film Festival (Montreal), benefits from a laconic but vivid script (penned by Babluani and his father), and from character development that speaks to the authenticity of personages that we might easily mistake for real life characters. The unsullied, pristine landscape plays an important role, throwing into relief the mostly fatally flawed mentality of villagers for whom the beauty of their surroundings is nothing more than an afterthought.

I gave this haunting, wholly engrossing film 3.4 out of 4.

Postscript to Montreal's 2007 Cinémania Film Festival

Maidy TeitelbaumCongratulations go to Cinémania President and founder Maidy Teitelbaum and Geneviève Royer for their insightful programming of English-subtitled, French only films, which featured Betrand Tavernier's 5-film tribute to long-time collaborator Philippe Noiret. Tavernier, whose life work was honoured at the sumptuous opening gala, also presided over master classes during one of the afternoons.

Robust attendance throughout the festival defused any and all suggestions that Montrealers were suffering from film festival fatigue. Nothing could be further from the truth, as local silver screen buffs continue to show that they count among the most discerning viewers of film anywhere in the world.

The prestigious Mel Hoppenheim Prix du Public was awarded to Julien Schnabel's very deserving The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but what really stood out in this year's festival were the extraordinary performances of the children & teens who had “leading” roles in many of the films. The most noteworthy were:
(1) Demander la permission des enfants, by Eric Civanyan -- a sometimes funny/not so funny 'battle of wit' between three sets of parents and their seven children.
(2) Les fourmis rouges, by Stephan Carpiaux, which follows 16-year-old Alex, played by Deborah Francis of L'Enfant fame, who is trying to escape an ambiguous relationship with her father, who in turn is having trouble dealing with the loss of her mother.
(3) Je m'appelle Elisabeth, by Jean-Pierre Améris, a film that lays bare the fragile emotional life of 10-year-old Betty, who, feeling abandoned by her boarding schooled sister, gives shelter to an escapee from a nearby asylum that is run by her father.

Other films of note were Dialogue avec mon jardinier by Jean Becker, Le Grand Meaulnes by Jean-Daniel Verhaegle and finally, the unsettling Pardonnez-moi by Maiwenn Le Bosco.

For A & O's ratings of most of the films, click HERE.


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