Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

Weekend Wrap-up: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia & more

Posted by Max Lalanne on September 21, 2012

Yirmaz Edogan, Firat Tanis, and Murat Kiliç in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: This 2011 Turkish import (with English subtitles throughout) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a tremendous feat of filmmaking. A dark, morose, and funny police procedural taking place largely in the rolling steppes of Anatolia, in rural Turkey, at night, the 150-minute-long film follows a police commisioner (Yirmaz Edogan), a prosecutor (Taner Biset), and a young doctor (Muhammet Uzuner) who – along with a little group of policemen, soldiers, and diggers – are driving around a convicted murderer in order to find a body buried somewhere in a field. The convict (Firat Tanis) can’t remember clearly where the body exactly lies (he was purportedly drunk) so the group drive around in their cars slowly all night, stopping many times. They take a break in the house of a local mayor (Ercan Kesal)  to eat and rest a little, where they all are raptured by the sight of the mayor’s lovely daughter (there aren’t a lot of women and children in this film, but when they are mentioned and seen, they are of much importance to the story and our characters). Do the men find the body when day eventually breaks? Yes they do. But that’s not the focus of this movie. Nothing that would be considered particularly “important” in any other movie happens and yet you can’t take your eyes of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. The best moments of this acutely observed and profound masterpiece occur when the men are just talking to one another – dialogue, and the silence when the men run out of the most mundane things to talk about, seems to have completely replaced music, of which there is strikingly none – while driving or while waiting, as they spend their night and some of the next gray morning working this odd case. Great performances from all the actors involved, and Ceylan and cinematographer Göhkan Tiryaki‘s spectacular rendering of both the night landscape and the small yet significant human figures that inhabit it is the best cinematographic work I’ve seen in a long time. [A]

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: A turgid and pretentious debacle of epic proportions. Apart from being able to visually plan out fights before they happen, eccentric genius Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has the ability, or curse, if you will, to “see everything” – which always means that Watson (poor Jude Law) will lead a veritable barrage of needless flashbacks and expository dialogue explaining everything every five minutes or so. Remember when he did this seemingly unimportant thingamajig at the beginning? You do? Well, let’s see it and hear it explained once again because it’s essential to the plot! The delight of the viewers seeking good dumb fun swiftly disappears. [C]

The Deep Blue Sea: An exquisitely mounted and frustratingly obtuse period piece in which Rachel Weisz plays a woman in 1950 post-war England tragically torn between a boring if solid marriage to a wealthy judge (Simon Russell Beale) and a heated affair with a handsome flyboy (Tom Hiddleston), who unfortunately just  can’t love her the same way that she loves him. Terence Davies‘ melancholic and slightly depressing romantic melodrama is filmed immacutely (if slightly lifelessly) with a sort of cinematically moodier and darker Mad Men-esque sensibility, cigarette smoke-wreathed atmosphere and all. Plus, wailing violins when you least expect it.[B-]

What did you watch this weekend?

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