Asheville has a surprisingly lively art-film scene for a town of its size, and that’s something we can certainly be proud of, but there are still a lot of movies that just don’t make it here. Some of those are hard to understand. I’m reasonably sure, for example, that Chicken with Plums (2011) could have done fairly good business here (certainly better than most documentaries that show up), but it never made it town. (The problem is that these choices are often made by how a film played in markets that have nothing to do with Asheville.) Other times, the reasoning is easy to understand — and the Oscar-nominated Austrian crime-drama Revanche (2008) is one of those times. Don’t misunderstand, Revanche is a good movie, but it would have barely lasted a week here. Thankfully, we have various local groups that will take a chance on titles like this.
Revanche is a fairly grim — but neither depressing nor nihilistic — film about a man, Alex (Johannes Krisch), a small time criminal, who wants to make a new life for himself and his Russian prostitute girlfriend, Tamara (Irina Potapenko). This becomes a desperate situation when their boss (Hanno Poschi) decides to move Tamara out of his brothel and set her up as a high class call girl. Alex thinks the only solution is to run away with Tamara on the proceeds from a bank robbery and hide out on his grandfather’s (Hannes Thanheiser) farm. The robbery goes wrong and Tamara is accidentally killed by a policeman, Robert (Andreas Lust), so the distraught Alex goes to the farm alone. At this point, the film becomes less thriller than character study.
This is also where the film indulges in a fairly improbable coincidence, since it turns out that Robert and his wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss), are neighbors of the grandfather. What makes this work is that the film’s plot is never about the police catching Alex. In fact, that is never an issue. At no point is Alex even under suspicion. Instead, it’s about Robert’s conscience over killing Tamara, the police investigation into whether the killing really was accidental. and whether or not Alex will take revenge on Robert. A great deal of the film centers on the relationship between Alex and Susanne, as well as Robert and his failing grandfather. These are the things — along with a complete lack of melodrama — that make the film rather remarkable. There are several twists — one of them isn’t hard to see coming — that keep the interest high and make Revanche very worth watching.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Revanche Friday, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com