April 15 – 30, 2000
I want to share my impressions with you about the movies I saw during this year’s Istanbul Film Festival.
178 movies were screened in 17 categories.
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION – 12 movies
ARTS AND THE MOVIES – 10 movies
FROM LITERATURE TO SILVER SCREEN – 8 Movies
EROTIC TALES – 4 Movies
SPECIAL EVENT : “CITY LIGHTS” WITH ORCHESTRA
IN MEMORIAM : Robert Bresson – 9 Movies
TRIBUTES – Theo Angelopoulos – 4 Movies
Sureyya Duru – 2 Movies
Takeshi Kitano – 4 Movies
Ken Loach – 5 Movies
A MARGINAL CULT FIGURE : ROSA VON PRAUNHEIM – 3 Movies
FOCUS ON A YOUNG DIRECTOR : Laurent Bouhnik – 3 Movies
YOUNG STARS OF THE WORLD CINEMA – 13 Movies
FROM THE WORLD OF FESTIVALS – 29 Movies
WOMEN’S STORIES – 11 Movies
CINEMA, THE MIRROR OF OUR TIMES : HUMAN RIGHTS – 15 Movies
2000 : AT THEIR GOLDEN FIFTIES – 8 Movies
THE WORLD OF ANIMATION : UNITED KINGDOM – 19 Movies
A COUNTRY – A CINEMA : UNITED KINGDOM – 8 Movies
TURKISH CINEMA 1999-2000 : 10 Movies
* * *
Philippe Garrel – LE VENT DE LA NUIT – France – 1999
I can hardly say that Garrel was successful creating the pessimistic world of the architect who was a member of ’68 generation. Garrel’s portrait of the young man was even worse. Catherine Deneuve’s presence wasn’t enough to save the film. I also, as a member of that generation and as a still-living witness of those dreamy days, know very well that ones who have dedicated themselves to the spirit of ’68 feel like dying for the rest of their lives, after the defeat. But Garrel didn’t succeed in visualizing it.
Erick Zonca – LE PETIT VOLEUR – France – 1999
In his latest film, the director of La Vie rêvée des angels (1998) continues mastering his style of telling the stories of young persons. Same “happy” ending as in Angels - young man realizes that his future is in common with the working class. A good movie, even better than Angels.
Robert Bresson – LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE – France – 1945
Grandmaster Bresson’s early movie based on a story by Diderot with dialogue by Cocteau. Real love would hold and save the fainting one. A cinematic treasure, a superb display of Bresson’s artistic skills.
Lynne Ramsay – RATCATCHER – UK – 1999
This remarkable, striking debut film of Lynne Ramsay’s fascinated me. Lynne Ramsay has the right to carry the flag of British “Free Cinema” proudly. Bitter realism told in a low tone by clear images, as good as Truffaut’s and Ken Loach’s. I hope Ramsay will continue becoming one of the best directors of the future.
Pedro Almodóvar – ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER – Spain/France – 1999
Melodramatic clichés hidden and spiced by changing roles, a mother acting like a man and a father become a transvestite. An ordinary character becomes a theatre star in one night, an insult to the theatre art. Perhaps the worst movie of Almodóvar. I saw this movie for the sake of his Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) and What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984). I don’t think that I will see an Almodóvar movie from now on…
Zhang Yang – SHOWER – China – 1999
A well known story told in a well known style. Living habits and differences between generations, with the changing face of China in the background .
Roberto Rossellini – FRANCESCO, GIULLARE DI DIO – Italy – 1950
Surprisingly different film from Rossellini when compared to Roma Città Aperta (1945), Paisà (1946) or Stromboli (1949). Short stories of friars living in 13th century’s Italy, summed up to create a magical atmosphere, tender and lyrical. A friar holding and then throwing up in the air the little bird perched upon his shoulder, and Francesco turning back and looking towards the camera made me remember scenes from Tarkovsky’s Mirror (1974).
Theo Angelopoulos – O THIASSOS (The Travelling Players) – Greece – 1975.
More than ten years have passed since I first saw Angelopoulos’ epical film. We watch Greece’s 20th century political history for 4 hours long. Angelopoulos’ approach to history is firm and sound, and it would be unfair to talk about lack of sufficient qualifications of secondary role players and background crowd.
Robert Bresson – LE PROCES DE JEANNE D’ARC – France – 1962.
I have seen just three Bresson films before this year’s festival : Pickpocket (1959) , Au hasard, Balthazar (1966) and L’Argent (1983). Bresson’s films reflecting his personal unique world are a real treasure for cinema lovers.
Manoel de Oliveira – A CARTA (The Letter) – Portugal/France/Spain – 1999.
Old master Oliveira based his film on Madame de Lafayette’s 17th century novel La princesse de Cleves. The film is made up of about 10-15 very long takes. His style is very interesting, no camera movement, no harsh expression of feelings at all. He tells his “tale” and you watch it sometimes smiling, sometimes in deep thought. Long live Oliveira.
Laurent Bouhnik – SELECT HOTEL – France – 1996.
First meeting with young French director Laurent Bouhnik. Story of Nathalie and her brother Tof’s vanishing out of this world. Bouhnik’s camera made me feel confused and uneasy while watching how easily/ordinarily he shows misery, vulgarity and people insulting and running down each other. He dedicated this movie to Arletty (French Marlene Dietrich) and Emiliano Zapata!
Robert Bresson – LE JOURNAL D’UN CURE DE CAMPAGNE – France – 1950.
This best loved movie by Tarkovsky is based on Bernanos’s novel. Lonely world of a young priest dying in disappointment. Excellently painted, unforgettable characters like the Count’s daughter, village doctor, the Countess, Vicar make you feel as if this two hour movie ended in ten seconds.
Alexander Sokurov – MOLOCH – Russia/Germany – 1999.
I was so sure of myself that I wouldn’t like Moloch. I will never agree that Hitler wasn’t aware of Aushwitch. I didn’t much like his Mother and Son (1997) either and I wasn’t thinking like the majority that Sokurov’s work was related to Tarkovsky’s. Fortunately now I think, it’s good that I saw Moloch. Impressive film I must admit. Forcing my mind to remember Charlie Chaplin’s portrait of Hitler to ease the heavy atmosphere was useless. Wonderful misty pictures and deep, careful character studies (especially of Eva Braun) captures everybody. I would like to see it again to know it better.
Robert Bresson – UN CONDAMNE A MORT S’EST ECHAPPE – France – 1956.
A true story of the French Resistance movement during World War II. A young lieutenant works on his escape plan to freedom day by day. A thriller-like story in Bressonian style.
Laurent Bouhnik – 1999 MADELEINE – France – 1999.
First film of Bouhnik’s ten year project : “From 1999 to 2009, 10 Years, 10 Films”. Bouhnik says -as I copy from the festival book- : “I imagine a film that develops over ten years. Characters whom the audience meet again, but who have changed over time… The years 1999-2009 are going to be fascinating. Through the stories and intrigues of a dozen protagonists, I would like, over the years, to recreate ‘the film’ of our daily life, which is taking shape every day without us knowing it. It will thus be a diary of my impressions, life and the general zeitgeist”. This first film is about a young woman, a lonely dressmaker, towards her middle-age. In the scene where she drops and loses her crucifix necklace, her fear, anger, and despair were impressive. Madeleine was much more better than Select Hotel.
Bruno Dumont – L’HUMANITE – France – 1999.
Lightning flashed and Dumont enlightened this year’s programme. This dazzling film will definitely be the best film of this year, and one of the best ones ever. He deserves to be acclaimed by cinema lovers forever. He has reached the peak of cinema art by this second feature film of his. I saw his first one La Vie de Jésus (1996) two years ago. It was also a very good film. Both of them take place in a small town in northern France, Bailleul, where the director was born. He was among the audience before the screening of L’Humanite. The film critic, who was introducing him to the audience, asked him : “How do you advise the audience to prepare themselves to watch your film?”, and he replied that “preparing” was an exaggerated word, that instead he needed everybody’s comprehension (which would be different for everybody), and if this didn’t happen the film would not survive… Next morning there was a press conference with him and two other directors Bouhnik and Guadagnino. When I asked him about the ending of his film, that if he ever considered an alternate ending where the criminal wouldn’t be caught, he replied me that he would never do that, that he wanted everything to be clear, and besides he wanted to underline that the criminal was an ordinary man not a “maniacal serial killer”. It is very good for us to have a new great director like Bruno Dumont. Thanks to directors like him, the art of cinema will survive. This is one of the best movies of all time. A must, to be seen by everybody many times.
Otar Iosseliani – ADIEU, PLANCHER DES VACHES – France/Switzerland/Italy - 1999.
Latest film from the great master Iosseliani, who was born in Tbilisi/USSR on 1934 and attended VGIK where he was tutored by Dovzhenko. One of the sweetest films you will ever see. Same irony and humour as in his former film : La chasse aux papillons (1992). We also have a chance to watch him in a supporting role as the Father. One of the best films of this year’s festival.
Zhang Yuan – SEVENTEEN YEARS – China – 1999.
Sad sad story of a young girl and her family. Better than his early movie Beijing Zazhong (1993). Zhang Yuan says : “It’s about the fragility of normal human feelings, how people get overtaken by their surroundings. I hope the film will reveal a twisted relationship of the family members, and also be of humanitarian love in some extreme circumstances…”. I think it doesn’t fall into the trap of melodrama. Yes, a good movie.
Robert Bresson – AU HASARD BALTHAZAR – France/Sweden – 1966.
We are lucky that, here in Istanbul, we have had the chance to watch this masterpiece from Bresson many times on big screen.
Abbas Kiarostami – THE WIND WILL CARRY US – France/Iran – 1999.
Kiarostami’s latest film is my first Kiarostami film. Previous films of his have screened in previous years’ Istanbul festivals, but I have never felt like going to a Kiarostami film, because of the image of the Iranian regime in my mind, plus I have been assuming that he and Makhmalbaf are certified artists of that regime. I liked its slow-paced tempo and the way he tells the story, but the film seemed like a naive documentary to me and I didn’t like it as a whole. I don’t want to use the words “exotic, touristy advertisement movie”, mainly because, towards the end of the film, the “engineer” and “village-doctor” riding on a motorbike through Van Gogh’s fields while talking about life and death was magnificently beautiful.
Theo Angelopoulos – TAXIDI STA KYTHIRA (VOYAGE TO CYTHERA) -
Greece/Germany/UK/Italy – 1983.
In Istanbul, Angelopoulos movies are always screened in completely full big saloons. Tickets are always sold out days before the screenings. And the audience applauds him at the end, always. I wanted to know how I would like Kythira this time, eleven years after I first saw it. When you read its synopsis it is impossible not to be impressed by it. and the name of the co-writer Tonino Guerra guarantees much. Alas! This time I didn’t like it at all. Characters seemed showy and artificial. None of the players were successful, their unwilling and unnatural acting left me annoyed. Details like: when it was raining here, and there were no raindrops over there, three steps distance away, make you lose all interest in it. In crowded places, people act like they are in a schoolchildren’s show. I have never found out the reason why Angelopoulos insists on presenting irrelevant love-making or harsh rape scenes in each of his movies. In his last film, Eternity and a Day (1998), I liked the image of the yellow raincoated one riding a bicycle in a rainy night. It was surprising to notice the same yellow raincoated figure over the bicycle in Kythira, which had been made 15 years before Eternity.
Charles Crichton – THE LAVENDER HILL MOB – UK – 1950.
Crichton had his last success in 1988 with his well-known film A Fish Called Wanda at the age of 78. In this sweet ironic comedy of a bank robbery, Alec Guinnes played the main role and it was very surprising to see a very young Audrey Hepburn in a short secondary role at the beginning of her career.
Robert Bresson – MOUCHETTE – France – 1967.
My first meeting with this well-known film of Bresson. Another adaptation from Bernanos. Sad, moving story of a teen living in the provinces. Bresson’s atmosphere takes you inside and makes you forget everything and makes you live every moment together with the characters in the film. Last year I attended a Brazilian theatre group Macunaima’s play Trojan Fragments at the Istanbul Theatre Festival. To express the suffering of the Trojan women, they were acting like Mouchette rolling on the ground, towards the river. Very touching.
Robert Bresson – LANCELOT DU LAC – France/Italy – 1974.
“Yours was a quest for the Holy Grail not for the God, God isn’t an object” says Guinevere the Queen to Lancelot the Knight of Round Table. My first colour film of Bresson gives me the evidences of how he would paint his early films if they were in colour. Brilliant pictures of Pasqualino De Santis. His camera shoots at the shoulder height up above the ground most of the time. Perhaps the most stylistic film of Bresson ever.
Giuseppe De Santis – NON C’E PACE TRA GLI ULIVI – Italy – 1950.
A good example of Italian Neo-Realist cinema. Raf Vallone plays the young brave shepherd struggling against the wealthy villain. One year after his sensational film Riso Amaro (1948), De Santis gives some social messages. It was a big pleasure to watch Lucia Bose, one of the most beautiful images in cinema history.
Robert Bresson – L’ARGENT – France/Switzerland – 1983.
Bresson’s last film. Adapted from a story by L.Tolstoy. Cinematography by Pasqualino De Santis again. Uncontrollable sequence of events drags a young man into a tragedy. “Money” being the background character, brilliant young man Yvon Targe turns out to be a insensitive murderer. Most pessimistic film of Bresson. No light, no hope.
João César Monteiro – AS BODAS DE DEUS – Portugal/France – 1999.
I am a great J.C.Monteiro fan. I have seen three of his films from the 1990s before this one. He is also an actor, a film critic and a poet. His early film A Comedia de Deus (1996) was my favourite of the 1996 Istanbul Film Festival four years ago. The extraordinary sensibility of his films expresses his provocative and cynical observations about life. I love this anarchist crazy old man.
Ken Loach – RAINING STONES – UK – 1993.
It is good to see Raining Stones, one of my favourite Ken Loach films, once again. They say : “If you are working-class, stones keep raining on your head seven days a week” to unemployed worker Bob. Ken Loach himself talks about his film : “… When the world is collapsing around you, it is important to hang on to some self respect… if you can maintain some outward sign of dignity, then all is not lost. If they have to, respectable people can become outlaws… The intention is to say, ‘Here is a group of people, here is what they are experiencing, let’s enjoy their company and then, because we are there – and not in a sociological way but in a comradely way – let’s consider the various consequences of this situation’, but not give the audience an easy way out.”
Pietro Germi – IL CAMMINO DELLA SPERANZA – Italy – 1950.
Director of Divorzio all’Italiana (1962), Sedotto e Abbandonata (1964) and Alfredo, Alfredo (1972), the great Pietro Germi shows his attitude to social events. There seems no way out except to hope for a job in France, for the workers of a closing mine and some villagers of Sicily. Typical example of Italian Neo-Realism movement, co-written by Federico Fellini. Wonderfully stylistic black and white images of a Sicilian village. Also can be considered as a road movie. Raf Vallone’s acting is unusually natural.
Dani Levy – THE GIRAFFE – Germany/Switzerland/France – 1998.
Dani Levy was the “newcomer” director of the 1992 Istanbul Film Festival. His movies I Was On Mars (1992), RobbyKallePaul (1989) and Du Mich Auch (1986) were not bad. Some years after those movies I saw his Stille Nacht (1996) too, but it wasn’t good. Now, The Giraffe : what a waste of time. It seems his sliding downhill towards cheap mainstream movies has gained acceleration. From the very beginning to the end all the memorized well-known techniques and tricks made me feel that I was watching a bad movie for the 100th time, nothing exciting, nothing new. Nothing ?… well, when the neo-Nazis burned Maria Schrader’s grandfather’s factory because they were Jews, someone asks her “Who burned the factory?” and I expected her to answer “Nazis” or “Racists”, but she surprises me by answering “idiots, Fascists” and that much wasn’t enough to regain my wasted two hours. Definitely the worst film of this year.
Ken Loach – LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD – UK – 1994.
After being all upset by Dani Levy, Ken Loach’s Ladybird, which I haven’t seen before, was like raindrops on the desert. Jorge the immigrant from Paraguay says to Maggie “If you don’t love somebody or something then you are empty” to encourage her in her struggle against the bureaucracy of British Social Services. Ken Loach continues to point out the problems of society. Is Maggie an ‘unfit mother’, or is it the social order, the system, that creates unfit personalities?
Ken Loach – KES – UK – 1969.
Most awaited film of Ken Loach for me. For a very long time I have been waiting to see this film. What a pleasure to see it on the big screen. I am just amazed. Best film of Loach. Chris Menges’s photography was wonderful.
Takeshi Kitano – THE SUMMER OF KIKUJIRO – Japan – 1999.
Charismatic director of Hana-Bi‘s (1998) new film Kikujiro tells us the story of a child and his friend Kikujiro, “The Man-Child”. Sweet, nice sentimental comedy of Kitano, mastering his special and unique features. Much better than Hana-Bi.
Max Ophüls – LA RONDE – France – 1950.
Please look at the cast : Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Daniel Gelin, Danielle Darrieux, Gerard Philip, Jean-Louis Barrault…all in the year 1950. How many times one would have the chance to see them in the same movie?
Jim Jarmusch – GHOST DOG : THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI – USA – 1999.
In the year 1986, the Istanbul Film Festival introduced us to exciting new directors like Kusturica, Nanni Moretti, Victor Erice and Jim Jarmusch, along with masters like Resnais, Szabo and Saura. Jarmusch, with his extraordinarily beautiful film Stranger Than Paradise (1984), was the big star for me that year. Later, in 1988, I saw Down by Law (1986), which was somewhat of a question mark; in 1990 there was Mystery Train (1989), which would never come close to Stranger Than Paradise; and in 1996, when I saw his Night on Earth (1991) and Dead Man (1995), it seemed certain to me that he had completed his mission of making good movies and joining the mainstream team. Today, people were crushing and running over each other to get into the cinema saloon to watch Ghost Dog, the miracle of high-technology. OK, it was a pleasure to watch its sometimes fast, sometimes slow tempo as needed, and RZA’s rap music was really good, but for God’s sake what was Jarmusch doing? What was the difference between him and Tarantino, him and Ferrara, him and Luc Besson…? I won’t say “him and Melville”, because it would be an insult to Melville. In the last scene of Melville’s Le Samourai (1967), A.Delon’s gun was empty too, but who could claim that Jarmusch succeeded in creating one tenth of the sensible atmosphere Melville had created? Instead, he showed the empty gun and warned the audience many times that Whitaker’s gun was empty. Ghost Dog killed 10-15 people in two hours, like flies. Killing is so simple and cheap. He just can’t kill his master because Samurais wouldn’t do that, they just obey their master like the dog in the picture of old records : “His Master’s Voice”… What is the final message Jarmusch gives us? “Obey your masters”? I don’t understand how a director like him has became an ordinary director like this. Wasn’t he the one who had made Paradise, or was it Tom DiCillo who had made it? I really doubt it. In Turkish we have an epigram (idiom/statement), we say : “I don’t know, should I cry or should I laugh?”. Both perhaps; I cry for his career and I laugh at this Ghost Dog.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan – MAYIS SIKINTISI (CLOUDS OF MAY) – TR – 1999.
With his second feature film Clouds of May, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who is an art photographer also, continues to tell stories of living in small Anatolian towns. In his debut, The Town (1998), it was so clear how much of a Tarkovsky admirer he was. This time, Tarkovskian effects are minor. He really gains his own style. I had seen this film already couple of months before the festival. I hope he will keep up this way. For me, he is the best Turkish director today.
Mike Leigh – TOPSY-TURVY – UK – 1999.
Not like his masterpiece Naked (1993), but another super film from Mike Leigh, who says : “Topsy-Turvy is a film about all of us who suffer and strain to make other people laugh. Gilbert and Sullivan dominated the musical theatre in the English-speaking world of a hundred years ago, and I have always been fascinated not only by their personalities, but by the way in which they and their collaborators fought and struggled to produce such harmonious, delightful and profoundly trivial material. The film is an attempt to evoke their world, and to bring it to life. For me, it is also a last chance to glance briefly over my shoulder at the quickly-receding past, before embarking on the imminent journey into the new century.” An ode to the art of theatre, an homage to the theatre world. Leigh is a part of that world. A nice gesture from him also, showing Katrin Cartlidge to us for a few seconds in a very short role.
37 films in two weeks time. Well, I have had fuller festivals, seeing around 40-45 films in two weeks in past years. This year I gave importance to old classics. If they had not have overlapped with other films, I would have seen Claude Chabrol’s The Colour of Lies and Chen Kaige’s The Emperor and The Assassin.
And if I could have had the courage to face the big disappointment I was afraid I would have had, I would have seen some of the following:
Raoul Ruiz – Time Regained
Guiseppe Tornatore – The Legend of 1900
Atom Egoyan – Felicia’s Journey
J. S. Woo – Lies
S.K. Jacobsen – Mifune (Dogma 3)
Patrice Leconte – The Girl on the Bridge
Amos Kollek – Fiona
Lea Pool – Set Me Free
M. Figgis – Miss Lulie (Dogma ?)
Tim Roth – War Zone
Julien Temple – Vigo – Passion For Life
M. Winterbottom – With or Without You
For my last words:
This year’s best film was Bruno Dumont’s L’Humanite. Definitely far ahead of the rest, which were really very good films:
Lynne Ramsay – RATCATCHER
Otar Iosseliani – ADIEU, PLANCHER DES VACHES
Alexander Sokurov – MOLOCH
Manoel de Oliveira – A CARTA (The Letter)
Erick Zonca – LE PETIT VOLEUR
João César Monteiro – AS BODAS DE DEUS
Mike Leigh – TOPSY-TURVY
Nuri Bilge Ceylan – MAYIS SIKINTISI (CLOUDS OF MAY)
Takeshi Kitano – THE SUMMER OF KIKUJIRO
Laurent Bouhnik – 1999 MADELEINE
Zhang Yuan – SEVENTEEN YEARS.