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“13 (Tzameti).”

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"Bravo, Number 13, bravo."
The centerpiece of "13 (Tzameti)" is an epic and organized game of Russian roulette. It’d be ideal to go into the film not knowing this fact; it’s also impossible to discuss the film without mentioning it. Fortunately, distributor Palm Pictures’ marketing materials have rendered moot any dilemmas we may have had about preserving a sense of mystery.

Géla Babluani, Georgian-born, French-educated, 26 when he directed the film (his feature debut) has made what sounds on paper like a brash, misanthropic boy movie. It’s miraculously not, not really — its nihilism is strikingly naive and straightforward; it’s sometimes grimly funny, but never smirkingly so. Babluani has managed to make a 60s art-house film, and while we’re more admiring than enraptured by the results, "13 (Tzameti)" is still as refreshing as a cool six-pack on a warm summer morning (well, how the hell do you start your day?).

Part of the film’s retro appeal comes from its being shot in exquisite black-and-white CinemaScope — all the better to captured the fine lines of star George Babluani‘s (the director’s brother) face. He plays Sébastien, a Georgian immigrant working as a roofer in France and living with his family in the kind of impassive misery that only Eastern Europeans on film seems able to pull off. Working on a crumbling estate, he overhears the frazzled, drug-addicted owner’s enigmatic plans to make what’s apparently a great deal of money, and when the man dies of an overdose he sets off in his place, following instructions he intercepted in the mail. On his journey he unknowingly evades the police surveillance set up outside of the house — one of several moments in which we’re forced to consider the random events that shape one’s fate. Sébastien ends up in the gloomy basement of a bustling house in the woods in which men from around the world have gathered to gamble on the ultimate high-stakes sport.

What saves the film from the novelty of its concept is that it is never not grounded in realistic details. The game is fantastical; the approach to it is not, from the type of men who make up the players — drug-addicted, frantic, demented, dying — to the obsessive implimentation of the rules. The betting audience treats the players as some mixture of prizefighter and race horse, ridiculous in light of the fact that the game is entirely based on luck, for all of the strategy and superstition that’s assigned to it.

George Babluani holds the film together as Sébastien, a character who’s desperate and foolish enough to get into the mess he does, but not desperate enough to belong there. He’s not heroic, but he’s smart enough to realize he has to play, and he wants to stay alive. In one scene in particular, he, a trembling wreck, faces another man (the superb Aurélien Recoing of Laurent Cantet’s "Time Out") who was violent to him before, but in that moment before they find out who will die can only express a kind of tender misery — it’s inscrutably powerful and moving, and it’s too bad that by the film’s bleakly ironic ending all it seems to offer is an arresting picture of the blackest depths of human abasement. 

+ "13 (Tzameti)" (Palm Pictures)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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