(click to read the articles)

« The pacing is perfect » - Marc Bell - Filmthreat
« A strong sense of style and of film-making » - Richard Brunton - Filmstalker
« A treat to watch and recommend » - Charles Tatum EFilm Critics
« More wit and imagination than in a lot of features » - Dan Lybarger - Hollywood Bitchslap
« Magic Kisa has « action-thriller » written all over it » - Adam Daniel Mezei PMD for Hire
« A blackly comic gem » - Iain Stott - Vote the movies
« A stellar cast » - Richard Propes - The Independent Film critic

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Review by Mark Bell in Filmthreat

I consider this a dark comedy for how absurd the scenario gets, and how dark events become, though it could easily find its way into the moody crime thriller genre as well. Beyond the obvious mystery of events, the undercurrent of honor not just among thieves, but brothers, resonates.
How much of a coincidence is it that Gino is into some dubious dealings that just so happen to come to a head right after Vic gets out of prison? Gino was the one who suggested the life swap…

Special consideration to the film goes to the sets of twins… who are played by one person in each instance, and seamlessly integrated onscreen together as if they’re two separate people. The effect is so smooth, despite thinking that at least one set was just one guy playing two roles, I didn’t imagine BOTH sets were utilizing the same trick. Christophe Laubion is wonderful as Vic and Gino, and Dominique Bettenfeld is exceptionally off-putting and frightening as the Gravedigger twins.

I don’t necessarily think the word “fun” is the one to use when talking about this short film, but I truly did enjoy it all around. The pacing is perfect for the tale it is telling, and when violence occurs it is immediate and matter-of-fact; it’s a part of a dubious lifestyle, and it isn’t fetishized in the least.

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Review by Richard Brunton in Filmstalker

I never used to enjoy short films, and it was quite recently that I started watching them. I was surprised at how much they had to offer over features, and how satisfying they could be. However it always seemed the case that the short was just the right length for the story, or it would often be too long. What I found with Magic Kisa is something different. The short film leaves you wanting more from the story, and it's one case where I really could see the short being made into a feature, should the director and the producers find the money to make it.

The short opens up with some nicely edited short moments to give some background to the story and the brothers. It's a nicely set-up opening that gives you some reflection after you know the story, and like much of the short, raises more questions in your mind about these characters and their history.
From these early scenes, and the ones leading up to the bridge incident, you can see that there's a strong sense of style in the cinematography and of film-making.

The night time section on the bridge is an interesting one that not only shows the strong filming techniques, but also brings in some rather quirky twists to the story with the two religious characters and their unusual methods.
The acting is good from Christophe Laubion, and again helps elevate the short to something more akin to a feature, and the characters are interesting and engaging, as is the story itself.

A clever story that has a few nice twists to it, although it does feel somewhat constrained by the short time it's on screen. There's certainly a lot more mileage in the story and looking back it is quite surprising how effectively the story was told in the short time frame, and how well you are drawn into the story.

Another aspect that's actually a positive for not exploring everything is that it leaves a lot more to the imagination, and so you could draw your own conclusions for some of the relationship between the brothers.
There are some clever turns to the story, the way the brothers communicate, and the way, with hindsight, you could see that perhaps miscommunication led the story to its final conclusion, or perhaps not.

Magic Kisa has a strong story to it and has good performances and a promising sense of style to it.
It delivers a nice conclusion which also makes you think back to the rest of the film, re-evaluating a few previous moments, and that's always a sign of a good film, as well as the fact that it leaves you wanting more from the story.
I enjoyed the short, and it certainly shows that there's scope for something bigger from the film-makers behind it.

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Review by Charles Tatum EFilm Critics

Brother Hoods

This complex Tarantino-like noir short film is a treat to watch and recommend.

First, a word about the technical aspects. Director Saliva does an absolutely flawless job of creating two sets of identical twins with one actor playing each set. The film's effect is brilliant, without calling attention to itself, and I was stunned to learn only one actor played two brothers. The musical score is fun and odd, another aspect that reminded me of Tarantino.

Laubion is great as the shifty brothers. Marie Vernalde is also good as Gino's girl, and Philemon Renaud as the young son is excellent, especially when telling the story of his hitchhiking trip home from school. I could watch an entire film dedicated to the Gravedigger brothers. Their (his?)scenes are both creepy and humorous, with Bettenfeld doing an astounding job.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed this mean little film (barely thirty minutes long). It could easily be expanded to a feature length film, and I would be one of the first seeking it out.

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Review by Dan Lybarger in HollywoodBitchslap

Magic Kisa is a 30-minute French comedy-thriller that’s so clever that it takes a couple of viewings to appreciate what writer-director Mathieu Saliva has done.

Magic Kisa starts off bleak and gets darker as it goes on, but Saliva and his crew keep the film from sneaking into nihilism by loading the film with a satanic humor. The twin mobsters read through a catalog of caskets as if they were shopping for cars. Saliva also has some intriguing plot twists that jolt viewers the way they frustrate Vic.

On a technical level, the film is astonishing because the filmmakers have figured out how to create dual characters for Laubion and Bettenfeld without drawing attention to the fact that each actor is playing two roles.

Casting performers in multiple roles is as old as cinema itself (Buster Keaton played an entire theater in 1921’s The Play House), but Saliva and the other filmmakers come up with ingenious ways to make Laubion and Bettenfeld interact with their cinematic doppelgangers as if it were happening in real time.

None of this would work if the actors weren’t up to the challenge. Take a close look at Laubion’s face during his domestic scenes with Vernalde, and you’ll catch a look of bewilderment as Vic discovers how complicated Gino’s life really is.

With only 30 minutes, Saliva’s pacing is appropriately taut and brisk. Nonetheless, there’s more wit and imagination in this offering than in a lot of features./p>

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Review by Adam Daniel Mezei in PMD FOR HIRE

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.

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.

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…

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Review by Iain Stott in Vote the Movies

Expertly crafted, convincingly acted, but all too short (there’s more than enough material here for a feature, which would give us a little more time to get to know these interesting characters), Saliva’s entertaining short film - a who-did-what-to-whom-and-why, following an ex-con, just released from prison, who adopts his twin brother’s identity (wife, child, dodgy deals, and all) - is a blackly comic gem that would suggest that Saliva is a talent to watch.

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Review by Richard Propes - The Independent Film critic

Written and directed by Mathieu Saliva, Magic Kisa is a rather delightfully demented French language short with touches of film noir and infinite amounts of pitch black humor packed into its perfectly paced 30-minute run time.

The majority of the time when a modestly budgeted short such as Magic Kisa extends itself dramatically, both in terms of technical requirements and the challenge of having two performers play dual roles, the end result is a shoulder shrug and a response of "Nice try." However, Magic Kisa manages to transcend its supposed "limitations" behind a stellar cast led by our dual players, Dominique Bettenfeld and the remarkable Christophe Laubion. Laubion's entire physical being comes remarkably to life, even his facial expressions completely remarkable.

At a mere 30 minutes, Saliva manages to both script and construct a film that both feels complete as a short film yet practically crying out to be a feature length film complete with intriguing and involving characters and dialogue that is snappy, crisp and lively. The camera work of Xavier Arias is remarkable, capturing both the film's darker aura while never losing grasp of the comedy that affords the audience breathing room and the ability to actually invest in these characters.

The sound mix, another area where these sorts of shorts often fall short (no pun intended!), is crisp and clear throughout the film's run time. Magic Kisa has been an official selection at 30 film festivals including the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival. The film has been on the film festival circuit, also playing on HBO in Europe while Indieflix members are also able to catch the film.

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