Maybe I am just peculiar about manipulation: I can tolerate it, in fact welcome it, in a movie like Shall We Kiss or an arthouse crowd-pleased such as Paris 36. But give me a "serious" film in which I start to feel manipulated -- and red flags arise.
So it is with Gotz Spielmann's new REVANCHE. I was enormously impressed with the writer/director's earlier Antares
(released here via Film Movement) and so approached his latest with perhaps too much expectation, increased by some very good press worldwide and a nod from our own Academy as a contender for Best Foreign Language Film last year.
Revanche -- the French word for revenge -- begins beautifully, with a placid view and quiet ambient sound that is suddenly broken by an event. What this event is we don't know at the time but learn much later in the proceedings. And that, my friends, is all you're going to get from me regarding plot, as Revanche, even more that most films, I think, depends on our being surprised as we move along. By approximately one-third of the way through the film, however, I had most of it figured out. So carefully planned (or as I began to interpret this, manipulated) has been Mr. Spielmann (shown above, right) in his arranging of locations, events, characters (and their physical states) that far too much coincidence has piled up and any real surprise has leeched out long before the movie reaches its conclusion.