Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The last time a French film exploded with such raw energy was when Mathieu Kassovitz debuted with La Haine in 1995. This is writer/director Frederic Balekdijan's first feature, also, and it uses the same neo-realistic style, with handheld cameras close in and on the streets. There isn't a whiff of falsehood, or evidence of a set designer's duster. Even the script has the rough-cut unpredictability of real life.

It deals with card sharks, street scams, petty crime, backed by an uglier, darker crowd of Armenian thugs. This is the Paris of immigrants, sweat shops, cafes and illegals. Chinese, North Africans, Eastern European gangsters coexist in a barely sustainable truce. Sooner or later a spark will ignite the tinderbox and someone will be killed. Followed by revenge attacks. Followed by God knows what else. In this no-go, gendarmes are noticeable by their absence.

Copy picture

Vahe's Chinese girlfriend has just dropped him and he finds himself babysitting her teenage brother, not because he has to, but the kid can't speak the language, is hot headed and liable to do himself harm. Their relationship is a mixture of resentment and affection, which leads them into danger.

Stories and characters move swiftly. There is no conventional plot, only the time it takes to rip the lid off the powder keg and somehow survive. Or not.

Cliches and sentimentality die at this level. Neo-realism has an artistic integrity, aligned to good taste. Gamblers, like La Haine, breathes its own fumes in a place where there is no translation for words like "taste" and "art."

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2005
Share this with others on...
Gamblers packshot
Card sharks on the streets of Paris.
Amazon link

Director: Frédéric Balekdjian

Writer: Frédéric Balekdjian

Starring: Pascal Elbe, Simon Abkarian, Isaac Sharry, Linh Dan Pham, Teng Fei Xiang

Year: 2005

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: France


EIFF 2005

Search database: