As the Istanbul Film Festival draws to a close, we try to overcome the sense of serious inadequacy created by the scripting and directing weaknesses in our cinema’s new products by only watching international productions.
Festivals are the most comfortable environments in which to take the pulse of an arts industry. With the films of the National Competition, three of which we have already seen at other festivals and nine for the first time, the 41st Istanbul International Film Festival offers an opportunity to assess the current state of mind and health of our cinema. Yes, we’re only halfway through the game show. I also know there are good movies coming out lately – because there are some I’ve seen before – but what we’ve seen so far is enough to give an idea. If I make a general assessment without naming the film, I can diagnose our cinema as an “arrhythmia”. The subject of “rhythm” is of course the joint responsibility of the screenwriter and director.
No matter how successful the actors are, without a competent writer in the background and a director who knows what to tell and how to tell, no healthy film will be made. Films that cannot breathe with the audience and are far from sincerity and credibility show that our cinema has not yet overcome the pandemic crisis. A significant portion of the films we watched were co-productions with foreign directors and/or different countries. It’s a fact that this is an important opportunity for producers who want to bring their projects to life, but it’s a bit difficult to say that it contributes to our cinema. Of course there are exceptions to this situation. “Klondike,” which is about the destruction of individuals by the war in Ukraine and the catastrophe of the civil war that incites brother against brother, is a work that, despite its shortcomings, achieves its goal and conveys its message to the audience.
Let’s get to world cinema… It is one of the favorite themes of European cinema, the life adventures, hopes, disappointments of artists… “Farewell, Leonore”, directed by Italian director Paolo Taviani and dedicated to his brother Vittorio, who died 2018, is the death of Italian Nobel laureate in literature Luigi Pirandello, who has taken on the difficult task of retelling the events that followed along with Pirandello’s “Nail” story. Taviani, who also incorporates documentaries in some moments of the film, does not hesitate to address in his film the themes of various films he has made with his brother. If you consider that the screenplay of “Chaos”, one of the brothers’ masterpieces, was adapted from Pirandello’s stories, you can better understand the meaning of this film for Paolo Taviani.
At the beginning of the film we see Pirandello on his deathbed. After his death, the fascist dictator Mussolini demanded that the author be buried with a solemn ceremony. Because the author is known for his closeness to the fascist government. However, before he died, Pirandello asked his friends to cremate his body and take his ashes to the village where he was born and pour them into a crevice in the rock. His wish is granted, the body is cremated, but his ashes are placed in a vase and kept in a temple in Rome. You have to wait 15 years for this vase to be brought to your village… After the war, an officer takes the vase and after a long journey it reaches the author’s village in Sicily. The journey is accompanied by some film scenes from Italian neo-realist cinema. When the ashes hit the ground, we suddenly find ourselves in the film and another story. Set in the mysterious tale of a little boy who kills a child with a nail… However, while the director ponders why he included this second story in the film after the hugely influential first installment, the first installment is less effective… Maybe a one second consideration will help us solve this problem.
THE DIRECTOR’S LONELY
French director François Ozon, a fan of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the rebellious child of German cinema who died young, created “Peter von Kant” based on Fassbinder’s play “Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” and the film – and he shot the sexual ones Identities in film and directed a film called Peter in this new film from Ozon, who previously directed the film Waterdrops Falling on Hot Stones based on a play by the director, is clearly reminiscent of Fassbinder. The film, which tells of director Peter’s passionate connection to a young actor candidate, cannot match the success of Oskar Roehler’s film “Enfant Terrible” from 2020, which contains excerpts from Fassbinder’s private and professional career.
One of the artistic films presented by the festival was “Expected Song”, produced and starring Cahide Sonku, the main star of our cinema in the 1950s. The beautiful star sat in the director’s chair with Orhan M. Arıburnu and Sami Ayanoğlu. The other main role was Zeki Müren, who was in front of the camera for the first time. It is commendable that the festival has a classic from our cinema restored every year – with the support of Zurich Insurance. “The Expected Song” became one of those films that people liked to watch; although it does not attract the attention of young people.
We met and fell in love with Norwegian director Bent Hamer, who chairs the jury of the festival’s International Competition section, with his comedy Eggs, which screened at the 1995 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. The film “Kitchen Stories” also impressed with the director’s ironic expression. His latest film “The Middle Man”, which will be shown at the festival, is a successful example of black humor. A work worthy of the director’s filmography for its style, it tells the story of an officer who undertakes to inform the families of those who have died in accidents in a small American town suffering from economic problems and accidents came.
IN THE DARK
Bosnian-French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Earwig (Sounds Like) is a dark film in every sense. The visual design of the film is not worth mentioning, but it shouldn’t be anyone brave enough to find out what the film tells, which contains a strange story from a Kafkaesque world. It’s probably best to read the Brian Catling novel from which it is derived. Films that challenge audiences like this can travel from festival to festival, but it’s not easy for them to communicate with audiences. The film “Precious Stones” by the Bolivian-Mexican director Natalia Lopez Gallardo, which won the jury prize in Berlin this year, is in no way inferior to “Earwig” in terms of opacity. The work, which engages in class psychological analysis surrounding a disappearance case, is indicative of the growing number of directors, not only in our country but also in world cinema, who are concerned about making an “art film” and don’t have qualms about communicating with the audience. One cannot help but make comparisons with the masterpieces of the masters of the past… How humble, how understandable those films were…
In his latest film, Sunset, Mexican director Michel Franco tells the story of an American married to a rich woman who falls in love with a Mexican girl he met on the beach in Acapulco, and with it his family, in short his possessions , gives up , everything. This is a film that cannot adequately introduce its hero and cannot go beyond an ordinary “avant-garde”. Australian director Justin Kurzel’s “Nitram” is a psychological drama about a true event. The director bluntly depicts the conditions that set the stage for the massacre committed by a young man with apparent intellectual disabilities who was raised in a loveless family environment in order to exact revenge on the world, but the film lacks perspective. It’s not clear if he wants us to watch from the youth perspective or from the outside. Despite the emphasis that civilian armament in Australia has reached terrible numbers, I had a feeling there might be some sympathizers of the hero among viewers.
Famed Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s Novelist’s Film, which won the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin this year, is a simple work that demonstrates the director’s mastery. This black and white film about the friendship that develops between two women deserves the award for its finesse and psychological detail as well as its visual expression. I would like to say the same for the film “Alcarras” by the young Catalan director Carla Simon, which was awarded the Golden Bear in Berlin. It is a very successful film that reflects the drama of a family living on traditional agriculture, which capitalism does not allow to live, with excellent interpretations by amateur actors. As in its predecessor “Summer of 93”, the children’s world forms the backbone of the film. Another successful Spanish film critical of capitalism was screened at the festival: The Good Boss. Directed by Fernando Leon De Aranoa, the film is one of the festival’s best, with a masterful screenplay and starring Javier Bardem. I think there are lessons our young directors should learn from this thought-provoking and laugh-provoking film.
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