Thursday, July 25, 2013


Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (immediately above, photographed by Ebru Ceylan) shared the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011 for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Most worldwide lists included it among the top 10 movies released in 2012. I noticed in the credits that the film was shot in Cinemascope, which I suppose to be a rarely-used, vintage film-format now, but it looked consistently eerie and vibrant in the many lingering, deep-field landscape-shots of the "vast Anatolian plain" – seen by day and by night, in rain and in sun  even though the film's action took place within 24 hours. The landscape was half the story. Muhammet Uzuner may have been the other half, with the leading role of warm-but-troubled-doctor. During one memorable, extended passage, he broke through the invisible "fourth wall" and stared directly into the camera, holding its gaze while doing subtle and mysteriously significant things with his face. In a film paced like this one, such a moment of daring created excitement at the same level as a chase scene.

On the other hand, all women's roles were minor roles. Counting back, I realize there were really only two roles for an individual woman, each in a different plot-segment. And in each case, the woman was beautiful and young and barely had a word to speak, while yet fascinating every man present and stunning them into a silence of their own. In the general absence of women, the male characters told stories to one another, mostly about dead or otherwise absent women. These stories were always about young, beautiful, silent, unpredictable, life-ruining women. Woman as object. Never woman as subject. I'm not sure I altogether believed before that the idealization of women should be read not as flattery but as an expression of their subjugation (a standard olden-days feminist position)  yet this film seemed relentlessly committed to demonstrating exactly how the traditions of idealization and subjugation go together.