German/Turkish director Fatih Akin shows his talents and faults in this well-received film, eventually stumbling over his own roundabout storyline which has the ‘rhymed’ cadences of a 19th Century serial novel. (Hugo might have blanched at the convenient coincidences.) Baki Davrak, in the pic’s best perf, brings a welcoming presence to his German university professor from Turkey (natch) who winds up back in Istanbul running a little German-language bookshop after his overbearing father (a Turkish Anthony Quinn sort) goes to jail on a manslaughter charge when he accidentally kills his Turkish hooker/girlfriend during a quarrel. Davrak hopes to find, and help, the dead woman’s missing daughter, unaware that she’s now a political radical on the run who’s just gone to Germany, unknowingly crisscrossing his move, hoping to find the mother she doesn’t know is dead! Not to worry, she meets-cute with a female student on campus, and starts a love affair before getting deported . . . back to Istanbul where she’s promptly jailed on a political charge. Not to worry, her new gal pal follows and rents a spare room from the bookshop guy who is (as you no doubt recall) searching, searching, searching, and totally unaware that his new tenant is in Istanbul to meet with the missing person he’s been looking for! Not to worry, the passionate, if vaguely idiotic girlfriend visits her jailed lover, sneaks a message out, and follows its hand-drawn map to a hidden gun that was ‘parked’ on a rooftop before the political radical had left Turkey to go to Germany to find the mother who was no longer alive then return to Istanbul only to land in jail. Whew! And now, her idiotically trusting lover walks thru a bad neighborhood with a gun in her loosely held handbag. Not to worry, the great German actress Hanna Schygulla as the girl’s mom shows up in Istanbul to forgive whoever is still around. Akin plays this farfetched farrago with a straight, not to say humorless, face, unafraid to show the radicals as so self-centered, you may start to root for Turkey’s near-police state cops. But with pitch-perfect casting, canny pacing and remarkably apt location shooting*, he gets away with a lot of it. (Or does on the award-circuit.) Akin’s obviously going to make something great before long, but this isn’t it.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Akin finds a lot of style and dramatic emphasis drawing out the natural colors found in his real life locations, not unlike Aki Kaurismäki in an early film like ARIEL/’88.