Criterion film a day, day 18: Revanche

Criterion collection curates based on what films are “significant”, not necessarily which films are great. This makes their job significantly harder the more contemporary the films get: How do you judge what film is significant when its impact is yet to be settled?

The response, on some level, is to go souvenir shopping: Off to different countries to find films that are either a solid product, or films that seem particularly ill-designed for the international market–70s Japanese Samurai films (though Quentin Tarantino has familiarized Americans, at least, to these films). Revanche (French for when an avalanche goes back up a mountain, or revenge), an Austrian thriller about a bouncer who robs a bank in his grandfather’s small town, is of the former: A solid product from a country that isn’t renowned for its film industry.

The film follows a standard european formula of calmly studying the gritty of the bouncer, his eastern european prostitute girlfriend, and their ill-fated attempt to rob a bank, pay their debts and move away from their sordid life.

In their getaway, a bored small-town cop accidentally shoots and kills the girlfriend (he was aiming at the tires). Heartbroken, the bouncer decides to stay in the village, and the story, and the increasingly intertwining lives of him, his dying grandfather, and the cop and his wife becomes a strong study on revenge.

I don’t necessarily agree with the ending, as the bouncer vacillates about how to take his revenge, and find it somewhat patly misogynistic. But seeing his angry character develop and contemplate the varying paths is a fun thing to watch, and manages to get across the real emotions of revenge and grief–a step that revenge films are often crucially missing. He is angry, but mostly out of anguish, and how he handles that emotion is like watching a painfully tight closed fist slowly open.

I don’t know if it is an influential film, but it is certainly a solid product from a country better known for a wussy empire and being totally landlocked.

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About Big Adam

A NYC doorman, a community organizer, wannabe ape, sometimes blogger, sometimes writer, always crossword puzzle incompleter, I will ride bicycles with your papa, dance Bhangra with your mama, take you on dates that cost nada.
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