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Arts & Culture

Intacto

Feeling lucky? In the new Spanish film

Intacto (opening January 20), luck becomes a tangible, coveted thing that divides the world into the haves and the have nots. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando has this review.What if luck were a gift bestowed upon certain individuals by the gods? Were not talking that charmed feeling you get when you find a quarter in the pay phone or a primo parking space at the mall. Were talking the kind of luck that allows you to walk away from a plane crash where everyone else dies or to be the sole survivor of a concentration camp. And if youre among these chosen few, you even have the ability to steal luck from others. The Spanish film

Intacto embraces this notion of luck and takes it to a logical extremeinto a world of gambling and greed where luck becomes a commodity that can be bought, sold or gambled away.

CLIP Sam: Well if youre ready I think its time to play.

Sam, who runs a lucrative casino in the midst of a lava field, reigns over this world. During World War II, he had lost everything but his life to the Nazis. Now, he continues to cheat death as he collects luck from those who dare to play a lethal game of chance with him. Federico, another gifted individual, had been running the casino with him but now he wants to leave, much to Sams displeasure.

CLIP Sam: You wanna play against me, you have no chance youre gift isnt strong enough.

Federico: You dont know that.

Sam: Ive known you since you survived that earthquake remember or maybe it was somebody else who took you under his wing and, who fed you, paid for your school made you into something.

Federico: My luck saved me, you taught me that.

Sam: Im not gonna sacrifice you. I taught you how to use that luck and now you think youre luckier than me.

Sam finally allows Federico to leave but not without a farewell hug that robs him of his gift.

CLIP Sam: Your gift Ive discovered and your gift I take away.

Luckless, Federico now combs through insurance claims looking for someone who seems unusaully blessed, someone whos good fortune may be strong enough to use against Sam. Federico finds such a candidate in Tomas, the sole survivor of a horrific airline crash. Federico and Tomas make their way back to the casino for a showdown with Sam. Along the way, however, Tomas must go through a bizarrre initiation process to be accepted with the elite circle of gifted players. At one point, this means running blindfolded and with your hands tied behind your back, through a heavily wooded area. The lucky avoid the trees, the others dont.

CLIP Music and SFX of running

But Tomas may be running out of luck. Federico keeps pushing to gamble with higher and higher stakes while Sara, a cop leading a charmed life of her own, pursues him for a crime he committed before the airline disaster.

Directed and co-written by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Intacto spins a dark, engrossing thriller that builds slowly but forcefully to surprising climax. Like Spains Open Your Eyes, Intacto is a low key sci-fi fantasy that avoids special effects and sets itself firmly in a world that looks very much like our own. This clever approach keeps costs down without seeming to cut any corners. In the case of Intacto, the film is stunningly shot and flaunts an assured, polished style despite being the debut feature of Fresnadillo.

What proves most appealing and satisfying about the film is that it uses the genre trappings of a thriller to hide a surprisingly tender heart. At its core, the film ponders the emotions of guilt and love. Luck may be coveted in this world but it can also be a burden. Tomas feels that hes an undeserving recipient of his good fortune while Sam feels guilt over having been fortunate enough to survive a concentration camp when his dearest friend did not. Love has the power to embolden and redeem. But in the end what will separate them is love, and that volatile passion throws a new spin on Sams game.

CLIP Sam: No one has ever come here out of love.

Intacto , which is in Spanish and English, is a complex tale that requires viewers to pay attention. Fresnadillo sprinkles wonderful details and clues throughout his film and assumes the audience is intelligent enough to catch them.