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Friday, April 18, 2014

BIR ZAMANLAR ANADOU'DA / ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (2011)

Considering the international rep & awards, Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan casts the smallest of shadows Stateside. And this major Cannes-winner helps show why. It’s a rural-set Police Procedural, not the expected detective/investigation set-up typical of the genre, but the routine procedural police work on a crime already solved, with suspects in custody and various piece-work quotidian tasks slowly advancing: Locating the body on a long overnight drive; Carting it back to the morgue; Overseeing the autopsy; Writing it all up for the report. For writer/director Ceylan, the specifics of murder are neither Means nor End, what concerns him is the minutia of character, process . . . and cogitation. You’ve never seen such a meditative crew, even the culprit. Everyone so lost in their thoughts, the whole country seems slow on the uptake. Revelations, when they come, are more personal than professional, measured out in drams, inconclusive and only fitfully connected to the task at hand. It’s not uninteresting, but it does make for a thin texture, as if Ceylan couldn’t handle more than one . . . thought . . . at . . . a . . . time. (No wonder critics raved.) His rapt tone helps holds the picture together, enlarging reflective insights into personal epiphanies, but without the haunting Anatolian landscape (stunningly captured by D.P. Gökhan Tiryaki), you might wonder how much ‘there’ is there.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The title, an obvious reference to Sergio Leone, is a bit of a mystery. A weakness for letting facial ticks play out in CinemaScopic Close-Up may be the only thing these two have in common. Perhaps the title is meant ironically.

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