Tag Archives: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Cannes 2014

Lost River
Lost River

Cannes International Film Festival

14 – 25 May 2013

Cannes, France

Cannes Festival website

There is no better place than Cannes to be reminded of the differences in taste and perspective between oneself and the rest of the critics’ world. But this year, the fierce reviews that Lost River, Ryan Gosling’s first foray into directing, received after its premiere in the Un Certain Regard section, made me wonder what was actually at stake here. Judging from the 10-minute-long standing ovations for one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs before and after the screening it was clear that it didn’t have anything to do with a waning of his celebrity power – in fact, it didn’t really matter to the majority of the audience what film was on show that night as long as Gosling was in the room. Looking at it more closely, his fairly impressive directing debut seems to have fallen victim to the same fate as Nicholas Winding Refn’s brilliant Only God Forgives (starring Gosling in the lead role and clearly serving as an inspiration for his own surrealist end-time tale) the year before: most critics didn’t know (or didn’t care) what to make of its alluring blend of affecting visual beauty and sparse (if, in Gosling’s case, slightly messy) narrative, and the few who loved it at first sight were instantly stared at with incredulity.

Watch the trailer for Lost River:

All in all though, there weren’t as many exciting films on offer as last year, despite some terrific surprises. In particular, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (his fifth feature film since his 2009 directorial debut I Killed My Mother) yielded beautifully raw emotions, caustic humour and moments of cinematic brilliance. And outlandish Argentine competition entry Wild Tales, by Damián Szifró;n, was a popular, hard-hitting and often hilarious portmanteau comedy featuring a bunch of diverse and increasingly hysterical characters who spectacularly lose control and go off the deep end.

Resembling last year’s mad dash for the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, the biggest buzz this time revolved around David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. A highly charged, cynical ghost story about today’s fucked-up Hollywood society, it stars Mia Wasikowska as the troubled daughter of a self-help guru who is battling her internal demons while working as a PA to a fading yet feisty actress (Julianne Moore).

Atom Egoyan’s cliché-ridden The Captive was the weakest competition entry for me, It faced strong competition from Olivier Assayas’s pretentious The Clouds of Sils Maria and from The Search, Michel Hazanavicius’s clumsy follow-up to The Artist, a muddled and sentimental war drama about a human rights worker who takes in a young Chechen refugee during the war in 1999. I also didn’t enjoy Asia Argento’s Un Certain Regard entry Incompresa for all its cockeyed quirkiness, although nothing could have topped the critics’ complete and unanimous disapproval of Olivier Dahan’s opening film Grace of Monaco.

But there was some noteworthy (if unsurprisingly rather heavyweight) art-house fare on show in the Competition this year. Nuri Bilge Ceylan impressed jury and critics alike with his three-hour-plus Chekhovian drama Winter Sleep about a wealthy, retired actor who runs a mountaintop hotel and fills his days with writing and dealing with his failing marriage. Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev draws more decisively on Tarkovsky’s inheritance in the poetic imagery and the gravity of his slow-paced, powerful and elusive thriller-drama Leviathan.

The usually slightly neglected midnight screenings were strong this year with David Michôd’s The Rover, his superb follow-up to Animal Kingdom (2010), and Kristian Levring’s conventionally plotted but deftly crafted Danish Western The Salvation. The third film screening at midnight was Chang’s rather predictable and slightly dull thriller The Target, which fell short of expectations but still managed to deliver the fun, big-screen action spectacle it was intended to be. In comparison, and more convincing in its mission to prove that the crafty and clever Korean crime thriller is not dead, was Kim Seong-hun’s A Hard Day.

Watch the trailer for The Rover:

Apart fom Lost River, the other standouts in the Un Certain Regard selection included Argentine director Lisandro Alonso’s unwieldy and progressively surreal drama Jauja and the only German festival entry, Amour Fou, Jessica Hausner’s rigidly stylised but original and witty portrait of the troubled Romantic writer and poet Heinrich von Kleist and his accomplice Henriette Vogel in the lead-up to their joint suicide in 1811. Typically, this year’s crowd-pleasing Un Certain Regard winner, Kornél Mundruczó;’s White God , split the critics once again: some saw it as clumsy and misguided social commentary, while others reacted warmly to the remarkable acting range of the dogs starring in the film.

On the whole, even with (or perhaps because of) the wide diversity in the reception of the films and a little less hype about the programme, these highlights prove once more that Cannes remains a great hunting ground for the weird, wild and unexpected.

Check out our previous Cannes coverage.

Festival report by Pamela Jahn

Once upon a Time in the World of Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Once upon a Time in Anatolia

Format: Cinema

Dates: 16 March 2012

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: New Wave Films

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Writers: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Ercan Kesal

Original title: Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da

Cast: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel

Turkey 2011

150 mins

Combining relatively modest working methods with a highly distinctive visual sensibility, the films of Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan eloquently speak of the emotional impassivity that is an affliction of 21st-century living.

Initially a photographer, Ceylan’s first foray into the moving image was the short Cocoon (1995). Shot in striking black and white, with Ceylan also acting as producer, co-editor and cinematographer, the wordless film tentatively hints at the impossibility of companionship, one of the defining motifs of Ceylan’s work. A feature, Small Town, emerged two years later. Told from the perspective of two children, and in four entwined parts running parallel to the seasons, Small Town served notice of Ceylan’s gift for wry comedy and of his distinguished approach to framing characters and landscapes. Cementing Ceylan’s clarity of vision and his sensitivity to the delicate nuances of life, Clouds of May (1999) takes another crisply composed look at the vagaries of country living. An observation of people coming together, briefly interacting and then gently drifting apart again, the film is inscribed with a profound reverence for the lives of its characters.

Generally casting non-professional actors and family members, and continuing to call upon his increasing stature as a photographer, Ceylan brought these elements and his interest in estrangement to wonderful fruition with the autobiographical Distant (2002). The story of two remote relatives (Muzzafer &#214zdemir and Mehmet Emin Toprak) awkwardly thrown together, the film renders modern Istanbul as a desolate, if intermittently picturesque, snow-cloaked metropolis, with the director drawing on Chekhov and Tarkovsky in his analysis of the alienating effects of urban life. The first film of the director’s to be selected for Cannes, Distant was awarded both the festival’s Grand Prix and the Best Actor prize, which was shared between &#214zdemir and Emin Toprak. The latter award was tinged with sadness as &#214zdemir, Ceylan’s cousin, was killed in a car crash shortly after the film was completed.

Ebru Ceylan has been a contributor to her husband’s films in a variety of guises, and Climates (2006) saw both spouses stepping in front of the camera’s penetrating gaze for an intense and unflinching look at the marriage of a successful Istanbul couple evidently on the brink of collapse. Wilfully blurring the distinction between on- and off-screen lives, Climates makes for frequently uncomfortable and emotionally devastating viewing, revealing Ceylan as a master storyteller who recognises and rigorously investigates the great potential for loneliness and self-destruction within us all. The first of the director’s films to be shot using high-definition digital video, the film captures with enhanced clarity and precision the stunning Turkish locations. The physical details of the protagonists are also beautifully rendered; witness the opening scene of Isa and Bahar frolicking, first playfully and then with the aim of causing provocation, on a golden sandy beach. Such moments lend Climates a pronounced and profound sense of intimacy.

Three Monkeys (2008) expands the unspoken dynamics of a dysfunctional family to society as a whole. Weaving a carefully calibrated maelstrom of violence, moral decay and ruined lives, this gripping psychological drama examines the fall-out from a hit-and-run traffic accident to present a darkly malevolent civilisation slowly suffocating through its own avarice and weakness. This is undoubtedly a dark and pessimistic work, though one still punctuated with flashes of characteristic black humour.

The winner of the Cannes 2011 Grand Prix, Once upon a Time in Anatolia, a title that nods towards Sergio Leone, stands as one of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s very finest achievements. Full of piercing insights and a finely tuned, somewhat macabre wit, this is an epic and rigorous tale of a night and day in a murder investigation.

In a short prologue, three men are drinking and talking. There follows a brutish brawl and hasty confession. A nocturnal convoy of cars is then shown travelling around the countryside as the confessor tries to remember where a body lays buried. After several false leads and a rest in a remote village, the corpse is finally discovered early the next morning. In the course of the long investigation, the hidden thoughts of the main protagonists are gradually themselves also exhumed.

Beautifully photographed in the Anatolian steppes by Gökhan Tiryaki, Once upon a Time in Anatolia is a meticulously constructed police procedural populated by bickering police and hard-bitten prosecutors. Based on an actual event experienced by Ercan Kesal, one of the three writers on the project alongside Ebru and Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the film unhurriedly replicates the ebb and flow of human life, unfolding like a fascinating game of chess with clues and gestures ambiguously revealed. In one landmark sequence an apple falls from a tree, the camera tracking it as it bobs and ebbs gently down a stream. The director audaciously decides against showing the actual murder that triggers the search. Ceylan has commented: ‘If you want to find something, you have to get lost. I wanted viewers to lose their usual points of reference, before they slowly become accustomed to the light.’

Citing Chekhov (the film features a doctor, who from initially being a passive observer is gradually revealed as perhaps the key participant in the narrative) and Vermeer as inspirations and influences, Ceylan has crafted a bold and at times testing film whose primary interest would seem to be the concept of truth, and the manner by which we arrive at it.

Jason Wood