Dirs: Gela Babluani, Temur Babluani. Fr-Geor.2006. 80mins.
Hotly tipped since his sensational debut feature, 13 (Tzameti), won prizes at Veniceand Sundance and excited remake interest in the US, 28-year-old Paris-based Gela Babluani returns to hisnative Georgia for The Legacy. Butthe result is a poorly acted and only spottily effective drama, as it followsthree young French visitors whose meddling in a rural vendetta sparks unwittingtragedy.
Co-written and co-directedwith his award-winning film-maker father Temur Babluani, this culture shock drama lacks the Grand Guignol immediacy of 13but shares one of its central faults: an inability to flesh out cogentcharacterisations.
Released in Paris late lastmonth to mostly positive reviews, and at the inauguralRome Film Fest this week, The Legacy isunlikely to repeat 13's success dueto its cultural specificity. It is doubtful the location will lend provoke aremake and it remains to be seen whether Gela Bubluani can realise his earlier acclaim.
Though it is hard todistribute praise or blame in this double-headed writing-directing venture, The Legacy wobbles from the start withsome egregiously wooden performances and flimsy exposition.
Three young Frenchmen, Patricia,Jean and Celine (Testud, Merhar and Legrand), arrive in Georgiancapital Tbilisi and hire local translator Nikolai (Bongard)to accompany them to a remote mountain region where they have inherited a ruinedcastle.
They set off for a two-daycouch journey but their plans take a detour when an old man and his grandson (Gasparidze and George Babluani,the reluctant hero of 13) board with an empty coffin in tow. Questioned by theFrench, the young man explains that they are headed for the village of a rivalclan where the grandfather is to sacrifice his life and end a four-generationvendetta.
Morbidly intrigued and morethan a little exploitative ' they intend to film the execution with theircamcorder ' the French trio tag along, accompanied by the reluctant but passiveinterpreter.
But when the old man beginsto walk across the fateful bridge to the other clan to be shot, he falls dead -of a heart attack. The French rush forward to help him, only to unwittinglyprecipitate another tragedy.
After this dramatic peak,which is well handled, The Legacy slowlycomes apart as it meanders through a long redundant scene at a police stationand the anti-climactic return to Tbilisi.
The Bubluanis'portrayal of the French is so feebly jaundiced that we get none of their back storiesor even their relations to one other. Only Bongardhas a little more definition as the bilingual native Georgian who has beenripped off by his previous foreign employers but continues to eke out a livingas an interpreter for clients he despises.
Technical credits areadequate, with effective photography that captures the battered charm ofunreconstructed Tbilisi and the savage beauty of the mountain locations.
Les Films de la Strada