Highlight: Revanche

courtesy of Janus Films

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Revanche
Oak Street Cinema, Wednesday at 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. and Thursday at 7:15 p.m.

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This deliberate, meticulous heist-gone-wrong flick eschews all the usual excitement of crime movies. Instead, Austrian writer-director Götz Spielmann concentrates on the slow buildup to a bank job and its simmering moral aftermath. Laconic robber Alex (Johannes Krisch) is an ex-con pushing a mop in a Vienna brothel (cruelly named Club Cinderella, for all the poor princesses who spread their legs there). His elderly grandfather lives on a rural farm—where Alex takes refuge after the botched heist—near a cop (Andreas Lust) and his wife (Ursula Strauss). Spielmann barely moves his camera and never allows an easy, emotional close-up as Alex furiously chops at the farm's woodpile. His weapon of revenge—"revanche" in French, though the movie's in German—could be an ax or the gun from his robbery. But who deserves to die for the unhappy outcome at the bank? While he chops, we worry. Unaccustomed to conscience, or to paralytic grief, Alex is no less confounded when the cop's wife comes on to him. Krisch plays this hard case without concession—he's a man who can only express himself physically. Yet new thoughts gradually crease his brow like water cutting through stone. The Oscar-nominated Revanche recalls the sort of filmmaking out of vogue since Bresson and Kieslowski—a cinema of moral consequence. Though Alex may scoff at the cop's wife driving his grandfather to church, he's the unlikely subject of what is ultimately a stark, powerful sermon.

 
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