Combustible Celluloid
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With: Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Ursula Strauss, Andreas Lust, Hannes Thanheiser, Hanno Pöschl
Written by: Götz Spielmann
Directed by: Götz Spielmann
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: German, Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 122
Date: 02/10/2008

Revanche (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Forest for the Trees

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This excellent crime drama from Austria echoes movies like Pulp Fiction in that it dwells in the spaces between the crimes, rather than on the "exciting" crimes themselves.

Alex (Johannes Krisch) works for a brothel and secretly dates one of the girls there, Tamara (Irina Potapenko), who hails from the Ukraine. Fed up with the boss's treatment of Tamara, Alex plans a bank robbery in the hopes of grabbing Tamara and skipping town. The bank is in a small village where Alex's cranky grandfather (Hannes Thanheiser) lives; but something goes terribly wrong and Alex winds up staying at his grandfather's place, passing the time by chopping a huge pile of wood. A married neighbor woman, Susanne (Ursula Strauss), notices him and invites him over to her place while her cop husband (Andreas Lust) is out. Everything connects and balances in an interesting, satisfying way, but I don't want to give away anything more.

Director Götz Spielmann takes his time and uses plenty of lingering shots, rarely telegraphing anything; some of these slow, rambling scenes don't appear to be going anywhere until you think back on them some time later. The theme of reflection and balance is effectively visited throughout, beginning with a striking shot of trees reflected, upside down, in water (the film starts in the city and ends in the country). It's a truly refreshing movie that justly received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

The Criterion Collection released the 2010 DVD and Blu-Ray. The DVD is a two-disc set that comes with an interview, a making-of featurette, a short film of Spielmann's, and an excellent liner notes essay by Armond White.

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