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Moth is freed on parole after spending time in prison on wrongful conviction of murder. Jailed shortly before the Bulgarian communist coup of 1944, he now finds himself in a new and alien world - the totalitarian Sofia of the 60s. His first night of freedom draws the map of a diabolical city full of decaying neighborhoods, gloomy streets and a bizarre parade of characters. Written by
I remember when I first heard about "Zift" some months before it was released and I couldn't believe what I had just heard and then I watched the trailer and I couldn't believe what I saw and when I finally saw the film back in early October I remember leaving the theatre with a big grin on my face, thinking how I just saw something I thought would never happen. Wonderful so very wonderful, I don't know if it can revive Bulgarian cinema, I think it's too far gone already, but I'll be definitely following Javor Gardev's career from this point on. The man shows promise as a director who thinks outside the box. Compared to that meatwagon of stale films that get made here from time to time, Zift is revolutionary in it's visual style, narrative and plot.
Opening with a reference to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, "Zift" is the story of a man nicknamed Moth, no real name is ever mentioned. Right now Moth is a prisoner and it's the 1960s which in Bulgaria meant hardcore Communist regime, Moth was in prison before that regime came to power, but that's beside the point for now. What matters is that he's getting released today and he's all to keen in getting as far away as possible, but not before paying last respect to some prison guard he didn't really like. Result, Moth gets punched, knocked down, guards throw him out of the prison, then a car with some military officer comes along and they take Moth to some crummy place and they start torturing him. Apparently they are looking for some diamond... and it's going to be one hell of a long day for Moth and that's all I'm going to say about the story.
From the start "Zift" tells you how this is going to play out, I don't mean that it's predictable or anything, what I'm talking about is style. The dialogue, the characters, the film has a quirky pitch black sense of humor, like the zift Moth likes chewing, it's not something that can appeal to everyone, and it might seem vulgar or profane or whatever, but it has it's lyrical value, it just adds up. Every story told by a character, however humorous or shallow it might seem, has it's own kind of wisdom to it, though not necessarily connected to the storyline. The film feels both distinctly western and distinctly Bulgarian, or Balkan to be more general, because it uses a storyline similar to that of the American Pulp novels (Zift itself is an adaptation of a pulp novel), film noirs and then the character stereotypes (femme fatales, anti hero protagonist) and all these elements get mixed together with Bulgarian culture and stereotypes, resulting in what I dare say, a quite original and refreshing piece of cinematic wonder.
Visually speaking "Zift" is all high contrast black and white goodness, a tasty treat for anyone who values the classic two color scheme. Essential for it's narrative structure is a series of flashbacks explaining, character relationships and background stories and depending on the flashback (a 1930s something maybe, 1940s, or modern time in the film's time frame 1960s) we get a scene shot on different film. So for example the 1960s part of the film is shot on 35mm while the earliest on 8mm, thus giving "Zift" a substantially different look for each time segment. I have to mention something about the acting and while I liked Zahary Bahalov as Moth, he played him with a lot of bravado, my hat goes down to the supporting cast, including the great Djoko Rosic as a priest who consoles Moth, and a whole lot of other actors who gave the film a strong energy boost.
And while it does have its own share of flaws(the ending felt rushed) and it might seems as if it's going nowhere, and some scenes might seem pointless to the overall plot, Zift is, nevertheless, high quality entertainment, an example in genre film-making, stylish and sharp-edged. The least to say about Javor Gardev's debut is that it's an opening to a promising career.
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