Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia", Corinna Belz's "Gerhard Richter Painting" & Jeonju Digital Project 2011 at Northwest Film Forum: Mar 21 - Apr 15

After a 3/4 of a year wait, the Cannes Grand Prix winning film by what I consider to be Turkey's greatest living filmmaker is finally here stateside, screening for a week at Northwest Film Forum! Nuri Bilge Ceylan's previous film "Thee Monkeys" was more of a brooding psychological thriller as a 'ghost story' of a family's haunting by their lost son and the torment of his memories. The previous two, were more straight-up methodical dramas taking place in vast open landscapes and color-desaturated urban scenes; "Distant" and "Climates" both exceptionally well executed, yet left me wondering if these were the exception, why is it there is such a dearth of intelligent, quiet, sometimes existential, dramas that told true to life stories? ...And I guess we know the answer to that. As simple as his work is in it's formula, Ceylan is one of the true global cinema artists working in this realm, where the conceptual, aesthetic, and spacial; both psychological and material - all come together to ad up to something more on the screen. From the Northwest Film Forum: "The plot of this co-winner of the 2011 Cannes Grand Prix is simple: a group of men search for a corpse. But the story is not so straightforward. Set against the haunted and monotonous landscape of the Anatolian steppe, the task of finding the body is cloaked in lies, mystery and a growing unease. The film dips into both the road movie and police genres, but the investigation within the film is purely figurative, unearthing questions of human existence."

Of course best encapsulated by Manohla Dargis for The New York Times: "Mr. Ceylan doesn’t trumpet his ideas, but lets them quietly surface, often through the stories that the men tell one another and that at times take the form of parables. In one, a driver, Arab Ali tells the doctor how he likes to drive to the countryside for target practice, just to let off some steam. Enveloped in darkness, the wind rising like sighs, Arab Ali at first registers as a somewhat buffoonish, borderline-dangerous character whose Hobbesian worldview (it’s shoot or be shot) is a reminder that this is, after all, a search for a murdered man. Yet, like the doctor, the prosecutor and the police chief, Naci, Arab Ali proves more complex than he seems because his words are those of a man puzzling through the meaning of life. Words can fail the men, whose stories of lost wives and other ghosts drench the movie in an acute sense of loss, one that is offset by the effulgence of the natural world, a gift that none seem to see. The dead haunt “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” but so does beauty. At one point, after several futile attempts to find the body, the men drive to a village. There they are greeted by its leader, or mukhtar (Ercan Kesal), who, amid a hospitable meal, tells the travelers that the town needs a new morgue. Most of the young people have left, he says, and when an old villager dies, they beg to see the dead one last time, holding onto a past that fills them with longing. And then the mukhtar’s beautiful daughter joins the men, her face bathed in a light that until then has eluded them."

Two other notable pieces of cinema grace the Film Forum in late March; the first being the 2011 installment of the Jeonju Digital Project hosted annually by the International Film Festival of the same name in Jeonju South Korea. Previous year's installments have introduced me to such favorite directors as Naomi Kawase and Lav Diaz, this current installment though is more established names in art-house cinema. Featuring Claire Denis, Jose Luis Guerin & Jean Marie Straub of the great husband-and-wife cinema duo Straub-Huillet. The second film being the documentary on the works/process of German neo-abstract expressionist painter Gerhard Richter. It seriously being THE year for Richter, with a retrospective at the Tate a exhibit of similar scale in Berlin and gracing the cover of last month's Artforum and the documentary "Gerhard Richter Painting" all of this on the year of his 80th birthday! Nice to see the deluge of attention focused on what I consider to be one of the greatest visual artists, of any medium this century. From the Northwest Film Forum: "Gerhard Richter, one of the most significant contemporary artists of our times, granted filmmaker Corinna Belz access to his studio in the spring and summer of 2009 as he worked on a series of large abstract paintings. Gerhard Richter Painting offers rare insights into the artist’s process with a quiet, fly-on-the-wall perspective. The paintings themselves become the protagonists. Gerhard Richter Painting is the penetrating portrait of an artist at work - and a fascinating film about the art of seeing."