Review: ‘Tilt’

Named for the sharp jolt that prematurely ends a pinball game, "Tilt" is an odd, insular road movie about a handful of lost souls bouncing off of each other in the vast dusty expanse of Spain's lower Aragon region. Not without an off-the-wall charm, pic is too eccentric for mainstream auds, yet not weird enough to lure the cult crowd.

Named for the sharp jolt that prematurely ends a pinball game, “Tilt” is an odd, insular road movie about a handful of lost souls bouncing off of each other in the vast dusty expanse of Spain’s lower Aragon region. Not without an off-the-wall charm, pic is too eccentric for much in the way of mainstream action, yet not weird enough to lure the cult crowd. Thus, prospects preclude bonus games or extra balls, with fests and ancillary the best bets.

Out of prison on a brief pass to attend his mother’s funeral, quietly angry Alex (Pepe Pereza) is agitated to discover his ride isn’t g.f. Susi but tubby, motor-mouthed pal Pick (Vicente Gil), who promptly tries to get him to go along on a scheme involving illicit gambling machines (“Fortune” is the name of one pinball game).

At the cemetery, Alex is introduced to the brother he never knew he had — 8-year-old Marcos (Ghamedy M’Baye). After much bickering among the men, Alex hitches a ride with hearse driver Paco (Felipe Garcia Velez), who in turn introduces him to Maria (Inma Ochoa), local prostie at the deserted Shanghai roadside bar.

Stage is thus set for series of chance encounters involving various allegiances and arguments among the principals, climaxing in Marcos’ return to school and Alex’s return to prison. Point here seems to be that we’re all orphans in this crazy world and optimism is the only hope, a theme underscored late-on by the story about the diver in the desert whose response to being told he’s far, far away from the water is, “Wow, what a beach!”

While idea itself is potentially ingratiating and director Juanjo Gimenez Pena is possessed of a fine compositional eye that favors actors walking in and out of the frame and other low-key, clever visual tricks, impact of film as a whole never equals sum of tantalizing parts. Thesps are fine and perfs seemingly calculated more to baffle than attract. Tech credits are first-rate, aided immensely by a punchy score that unexpectedly features close to 90 seconds of lilting piano music after closing credit crawl.

Tilt

Spain

Production

A Salto de Eje/Astrolabio production. (International sales: Salto de Eje, Barcelona; Astrolabio, Madrid.) Produced by Juanjo Gimenez Pena, Luis Angel Bellaba. Executive producer, Albert Espel. Directed by Juanjo Gimenez Pena. Screenplay, Gimenez Pena, Miguel Angel Baixauli.

Crew

Camera (color), Pere Pueyo; editor, David Vericat; music, Alfred Garcia Demestres; set designer, Lu Pulici; sound (Dolby Digital), Jose Manuel Sospedra, Juan Sanchez "Cuti." Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (competing), Sept. 2, 2001. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Alex - Pepe Pereza
Pick - Vicente Gil
Marcos - Ghamedy M'Baye
Maria - Inma Ochoa
Paco - Felipe Garcia Velez
Emilio - Ramon Sala
With: Alicia Yague, Ester Moscatelli.
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