director T. Fikret Uçak
This is the movie America needs right now.
Turkish knock-off Spider-Man, Captain America, and Santos.
director Mehmet Arslan
I’m not sure what the A-side or B-side was but I watched Tarkan Versus the Vikings after speeding through The Deathless Devil (1972), twice the Turkish junk fun from that decade of decades, the 1970’s.
For my money, Tarkan was more fun. You start with the stabbing of babies by those ruthless Vikings. You kill Tarkan’s dog, Kurt. You’ve got gobs and gobs of quite entertaining fight staging. A giant rubber octopus. And lots of ladies wanting to get butt nekkid with Tarkan like he’s a tartar James Bond.
To be honest, I speeded through a lot of this movie too. But I stand by it. It kind of works, upping the action and zipping through the lower moments. I doubt I missed anything significant.
Apparently, Kartal Tibet made a number of Tarkan movies, so I won’t try to speculate too much on how representative this one is. There is some interesting nationalism at play as well as some kind of interesting racial depictions, particularly of the Chinese vamp Lotus (Seher Seniz). But I suppose to ruminate on this I should have at least watched it at normal speed.
director Yılmaz Atadeniz
Legends tell of Turkish trash cinema of the 1970’s. Legends and many a movie blog and other posts on ye olde internet. Yet, to this day, I’ve managed to see very few of them.
So I can’t say how much of an exemplarof Turkish trash cinema The Deathless Devil proves to be, but it’s super-fun garbage nonsense. It’s a pre-mash-up mash-up of genre stuff, notably grooving to the vibe of an old Hollywood serial starring a masked hero with no overt superpowers. Even the villain has something Ming the Merciless about his facial hair. And a cardboard robot straight out of a 1930’s sci-fi schlocker.
The fighting is not quite balletic but it’s a bit more fun than your average fight scene battles. And there is a lot of fighting.
I’ll be perfectly honest and cop to the fact that I watched this is semi-fast forward, which given the silliness, kind of worked to fly through the material and not dawdle over the details. Not sure if I missed out on this front, but it worked for me.
director Metin Erksan
I’d heard about the Turkish knock-off of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), as well as a number of other 1970’s Turkish knock-off films, but I hadn’t ever seen them before. Şeytan is essentially a pretty straight-up re-make of that classic, game-changing American horror film, but made on the cheap within the context of Turkish culture.
It’s quite marvelously bad, but I have to say that I regret maybe not having re-watched The Exorcist more recently to perhaps more fully appreciate the film’s rip-offs and variances more fully.
Quite entertaining in its way.
director Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The film opens on a landscape very much like the one in the poster above, dimming twilight, miles of nowhere. Three cars stop, men get out, one handcuffed. Is this the mafia about to execute someone?
It turns out that these are the police and the handcuffed man is a murder suspect, trying to lead the posse to the location of the buried body of his victim. The landscape of rolling hills and plains becomes more and more difficult to distinguish as night comes on. But the men keep searching. Who was murdered, why the person was murdered, how he was murdered all comes slowly, very slowly forth.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film moves at a measured, unhurried pace. The nighttime landscapes of the Turkish countryside evoke the mystery at hand. The unknown. The picture that slowly unveils is not so much a vantage on the country or the people, but a sliver of a sense of the people and the place, the outskirts of the city of Keskin, a district of the Kırıkkale Province. Ceylan isn’t giving a definitive viewpoint, but a personalized one, centered around the doctor who will perform the autopsy played by Muhammet Uzuner. The story is based on some real life events, but even the perspective is slow to come into focus.
It’s a very good movie, in my opinion. Though slow-going, it’s evocative and oddly fascinating. The performances are largely naturalistic. There is an open-endedness to the whole, where meaning is left for interpretation, which when done well, can be very thought-provoking. Really, quite a good film.
(2007) dir. Fatih Akin
After reading about writer/director Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven, I was eager to see it in the theater, and though I failed to do that, I did watch his previous film Head-On (2004), which I really liked. Fatih Akin is one of my most recent personal discoveries and his films I recommend to everyone I can.
Akin is a German of Turkish descent, or however you might say that properly. In America we have all these hyphonated ways of describing people’s national backgrounds, and while that is perhaps a fairly modern conceit, America has by definition had to deal with the world of multicultural immigrants as part of its make-up and character. I don’t know the full scope of Turkish and German relationships, but I am not ignorant of the cultural estrangement, the split-personality of these highly contrasting cultures and their relationships and the identities that are molded out of this particular world.
This is Akin’s world. His narratives are very much about the crisis of identity in these worlds, but far from limited to such a specific issue. Akin’s films are about the people, rich characters that he develops across the strata of society, both in Germany and in Turkey.
The Edge of Heaven, which I have read is actually more accurately translated to On the Other Side from the German title Auf der anderen Seite, is about the movement of characters between the two worlds: Istanbul and Bremen, mostly, but very much the two countries, the two cultures, the two worlds. What moves the characters are the deaths of two women, around which the film is structured.
The other very profound thing in Akin’s films is the humanity imbued in all of the characters and the drama. The films deal greatly with death and mortality, with love and dissociation, identity and humanity. There is a profundity in his work that is tremendously moving and powerful, something connective and real. I am not the first to notice this, I mean, I read about his work in the New Yorker, The New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle among others.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see his films, you should try to find the opportunity. It’s surely worth the effort.
(2004) dir. Fatih Akin
In reading about director Fatih Akin’s latest film to be released in the States, The Edge of Heaven (2007), I became interested in seeing Head-On, which I hadn’t really noted when it came out.
It’s an interesting film, a good film. I’m still absorbing it and trying to put it in perspective.
Set in Hamburg, Germany, Head-On is the story of two Turkish Germans who meet in a hospital following suicide attempts. Cahit is an aging rocker type, deeply alcoholic, who drives his car right into a building, a straight-up metaphor for his approach to life. Sibel, played by the gorgeous Sibel Kekilli, is a young woman who wants to live life but is held in cultural bondage by her traditional family, a family who is more concerned with what her suicide would mean culturally for their family rather than what it would mean emotionally. Sibel talks Cahit into marrying her to free her from this, so that she can “fuck anybody she wants”, which for her is an aspect of freedom.
Their is an air of Jim Jarmusch to the film, maybe more in the people rather than the film’s tone. It’s certainly not as spartan and quiet or slow as Jarmusch, but you can feel a bit of Stranger Than Paradise (1984) in their oddball relationship. Of course, it evolves significantly.
The film is very much about the cultural situation of Turkish Germans, both within their own culture, their relationships to modern Western culture and their own identity. Sibel is steeped in traditional Turkish culture even though she was actually born in Germany. She strives for the freedom to be herself and discover that. Cahit, on the other hand, is already where Sibel wants to be, but crushed by the death of his first wife, he has become a complete nihilist. Sibel awakens Cahit’s sense of himself, his sense of his culture. Though he was born in Turkey, his Turkish has become poor and he doesn’t know how to inhabit the world of the Turks. He hates it.
I don’t know exactly, it’s all worlds that are new to me. But the characters are compelling. I liked the film.