First-time feature director Géla Babluani’s 13 Tzameti (tzameti is Georgian for thirteen, and like a dope I didn’t take a note on how the title appears on screen, so I’m using the Sundance Film Guide as reference) is one of those high-concept calling-card films that often portend better, more fully developed works to come. Protagonist Sébastien (Georges Babluani) has no idea what he’s in for when he starts following a set of directions meant for a deceased man for whom he has been working as a roofer. There may be money, he figures, at the end of this bleak road.
The story, spare as it is, unfolds slowly over the film’s 93 minute running time, and is nicely enhanced by moody black-and-white cinematography. I have no desire to spoil anything here, but I’ll say that when Sébastien finally reaches his destination, where the population includes Aureil Recoiling and Pascal Bongard, giving intense performances, he finds a dark place dedicated to sating at least a couple of nasty human appetites. Intriguing as it is, I found myself in danger of dozing off before it was over. It’s a one-idea film — albeit a brutishly gripping one — without enough material to sustain itself.