Saturday, December 6, 2014

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's new film "Winter Sleep" at Grand Illusion Cinema: Jan 2 - 15

Finally here stateside and opening for a two week run at the Grand Illusion Cinema in early January! A director who has been on the rise and rise for some time, it came as no surprise to see Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Winter Sleep" receive this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes. Turkish cinema has been invigorated by this singular figure over the past decade, one who made his vision a heady mix of the plumbing of the personal, spiritual and political set against stark, expansive natural beauty. Ceylan's telling of increasingly nuanced moral tales reached a peak with 2012's atypical police procedural "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" one that watched like a twofold quest, "One Search for a Body, Another for Meaning". Returning to similar territory, this darkness of winter Turkish stove-side epic is full of "Philosophic Musings Spun in Chekhovian Fashion" focusing on the sedentary years in the life of a former actor turned hotel-keeper reconciling himself to old age.

The Existentialists would have a field day with Ceylan's depiction of a man putting on the act of trying to please everyone, maintaining a tenuous grip on his own dignity and all the while using his intellectual distance to undermine those close to him. Much of the film's character is inspired by the theatre and filled with moralistic digressions explored explicitly in long, stagey discussions. No surprise then to see recognition given to Chekhov, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Voltaire in the roll of the end credits. A convincing portrait of a vain, deluded, yet intensely charming man in decline, the structure is wide-ranging, with an undertow of several concurrent subplots. But for all it's engagement of questions of conscience, social responsibility, class, authority and self-deception, "Winter Sleep" is a drama of words rather action. We are given several striking outdoor sequences in the otherworldly beauty of the surrounding Cappadocian Steppes, these like breaths of air in the claustrophobic intellectual smothering that frame them. The vast majority of Ceylan's film takes place in the stone cave-like rooms of the hotel where our protagonist has essentially dug himself a shelter from the world. Surrounded by literature, criticism and philosophy, his only constant with the community outside his door through the pulpit of the editorial column he writes for the local paper, it is a "Rocky Kingdom of a Man With Petty Cares" in a hibernating sleepwalk through the final acts of his life.