Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Distant, Nuri Bilge Ceylon

The penultimate foreign film of the fall series -- a series without a lightweight film in the bunch, was Distant by the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylon. A young man leaves his village where the local factory has shut down to go stay with a relative of some sort in Istanbul. The relative is about 20 years older, a professional [but not very busy and probably not very successful] photographer. The young man can't find work and doesn't try very hard, the older man tolerates the younger. They talk very, very little. The older man's wife has left him and is immigrating to Canada with a new husband. Nothing really happens, the dialog is minimal, there is no background music, we see some attractive scenes of Istanbul but not the touristy ones except for a few instances of the Hagia Sophia through the fog.

This film was likened to another we saw earlier called What I Did Last Summer, a Russian film with only two actors who were alone at a weather station in the Arctic -- but there was dramatic action in the Russian film although the landscape was barren and the men mostly silent. When the film was over a woman near-by said that it reminded her of the only Turkish book she ever tired to read, Orhan Palmuk's Snow. I laughed and said I know several people, myself included, who were unable to finish it and not one person who actually finished it.

And yet, I do not believe the the Turks are a morose and boring lot. I saw another Turkish film, the name of which escapes me, a few years ago that I liked a lot -- it was a sweet romance but I do not mean schmaltz. True I couldn't read Palmuk's Call Me Red either -- and frankly I read a lot of difficult books. However when I traveled in Turkey I liked the people. Our Turkish guide was the very best one I dealt with in four continents. When we were on a gulet for four days along the Turquoise coast, the four-man crew were very personable and talkative guys. Needless to say, the salesmen in the souk's poured on the charm -- the Turks have been master traders for at least 4,000 years. So why this 20th century literary and filmic dourness? I don't know.

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