FILM REVIEW | Magic Kisa
It took a while for director Mathieu Saliva to get his Magic Kisa up on screen to a wider audience, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the proliferation of VOD streaming sites around the interwebs (more then 700+ in Europe alone!), we’re able to enjoy this thrilling short which has been under wraps and “in hiding” since the far-away year 2008. VOD seems to be a second life for films which came to market before VOD was actually VOD.
Kisa tells the story Vic and Gino, twin brothers who took radically divergent paths in life.
Vic, the good, runs a small French bar-bistro along with a loving wife and son. Gino, the prodigal, has lived a life of petty crime and has recently been released from the clink. He rolls into Vic’s bar one miserably rainy evening to knock back a few tequilas with him. Though Vic is totally shocked to see his brother, wearing a hangdog look with forlornness in his eyes, Vic hears the unspoken request he somehow knows Gino desperately wants to ask him: to pull off one final scam before the both of them hang up their spurs and battle armor forever.
So what’s the heist?
Gino convinces Vic to agree to let him assume Vic’s identity for one week while Vic sorts out a few crooked deals he’s got on the back burner and so that he can spend a full week with his mistress. Gino, suddenly finding himself in his brother’s conjugal bed one fine morning, wakes up alongside Margot (Marie Vernalde), a woman he knows very little about in the time Vic’s been married to her. She quickly puts Gino-as-Vic through his paces and it instantly dawns upon Gino how chaotic his brother’s relationship is with both his sister-in-law and nephew. In short, rotten to the core would be an understatement, and relations between Margot and Vic have apparently deteriorated to the point of near-divorce. All in all, it’s much worse than Gino imagined things to be. Rather than enjoy a few spirited romps with his sister-in-law over the next seven days, Gino just inherited a caboodle more than he bargained for.
A dispute between the brothers ensues, and Vic’s face somehow finds Gino’s fist and it knocks Vic out cold onto the asphalt. Panicking at the gush of blood now seeping out of his twin’s head — by now forming a small puddle — Gino bundles his brother up in a — fancy that! — convenient white shroud and dumps the body into the nearby river in order to dispose of the evidence.
As Gino-as-Vic discovers the depth of his bro’s financial problems — to the tune of an eight thousand Canadian dollar(?!) debt to a pair of thuggish undertakers-from-hell (the both of them played with aplomb by Dominique Bettenfeld), he plies the depth of brother Vic’s double life and wishes he never accepted his much-shrewder elder brother’s proposal from the bar.
Adding insult to injury, Vic’s body washes ashore and is placed in immediate intensive care, where Vic begins to recover from the staggering blow to his head. Covered from head to toe in hospital bandages and scrubs, Gino-as-Vic is compelled to visit the convalescing Vic-as-Gino by Margot, and the family wagon trains it to the hospital to pay their respects to the long-lost “uncle Gino.”
Out of earshot, Gino demands to know the whereabouts of the secret cash stash Vic’s got hidden somewhere which he intends to buy off the thugs with.
It’s when our story begins its fateful downward spiral…
For what happens next, click here.
What I enjoyed most about Magic Kisa?
The French filmmaking school: As I’d mentioned to producer Jean-Claude Flaccomio during our recent Facebook exchange, I can observe French indie quality from 1.6km away. The frame adopts a sudden raw grittiness which only serves to enhance and add to the overall narrative experience in ways I rarely see here on the left side of the Pond. Also, the actors seem to totally throw themselves at these roles in ways their Hollywood and US East Coast counterparts decidedly do not. Christophe Laubion plays both Gino and Vic with alternating degrees of restraint and violence, adding to his likability over the course of Magic Kisa‘s thirty-two minutes; not easy to achieve which such a short runway. Bettenfeld was a positively intimidating adversary — especially during Gino-as-Vic’s chocolate torture scene (yes, you read that correctly) — and the entire supporting cast held up the protagonist’s burdensome journey over the course of the short, quite astonishing, in fact. Saliva, as director, seemed well-prepared, with the entire cast hitting their dialogue and marks. Again, I’m flabbergasted this was just a short; with action-thriller written all over Magic Kisa, and I suspect it was solely due to financing limitations which prevented this story from going to full-feature. Nevertheless, I respect Flaccomio for keeping a lid on the unit: at ninety minutes, I don’t see Magic Kisa playing out with as much intensity. Small here is indeed beautiful.
Acting: The players — Laubion, Bettenfeld, and Vernalde — came to the party fully prepared to devote their all to the realization of Saliva’s script. Gino-as-Vic, sans four of his ten fingers, was harrowing to watch, though totally convincing. How many indie actors can achieve this level of visceral realism in such a compressed time frame? Not many that I know. And yes, while this film was shot in French, even those who would otherwise eschew subtitled fare can’t help but admire what Saliva et al. pulled off here in record time.
Cinematography and sound design: We say it often here at the blog, but it’s so true: great sound saves a poorly shot movie. Yet both sound and what was visible on-screen hit their marks. DP Xavier Arias framed Saliva’s players perfectly with busy frame for action sequences, middle-closes for the more tender moments, and cleverly-lit exteriors. And the soundtrack matched all the action-packed sequences.
What camera did you guys use?
Verdict: If you’re a fan of shorts, this is one you don’t want to miss. If you didn’t catch this in oh-eight, now’s your chance.
Want to know how to shoot a short right? Magic Kisa will show you how…