Sunday, May second, 2010
For the past few nights I have been watching Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant -- a movie I just found out about and which I'm finding immensely gratifying as a collection of images and sounds, and simultaneously difficult to grasp intellectually. Part of the problem is the smallness and lack of definition of the TV screen -- I keep pausing and rewinding to tease apart what's happening in the picture. For instance in the middle of the opening sequence, while Yusuf is looking for his brother, the shot switches to a woman leaving her building a few doors down -- the woman is small and blurry enough that I at first thought it was a shot of Yusuf from a new angle. Yusuf enters the shot in the foreground a few seconds later, clearing up that misperception -- but I think on a larger screen, there would have been no mistake to begin with.
But the movie is also just extremely dense with information. Take the scene at the end of the opening sequence where Mahmut comes home and finds Yusuf asleep in the entryway of his building. In the previous shot, it was still morning and Yusuf was waiting outside for Mahmut to come home -- then a cut, it is suddenly dark, you see a silhouetted figure coming up the steps of the building and assume it is Yusuf still; not until he comes into the building and starting up the steps, flicks on the light, do you realize it's not -- and at that point, your attention is occupied by the stray cat mewing in the entryway, you don't pick up on what's going on until Mahmut comes back down the steps and sees Yusuf. Then (if you're me) you think Wait, how could I have not gotten that? How could Mahmut have not gotten that? (And Mahmut's line soon after this, apologizing for having forgotten Yusuf was coming, is also the first indication the viewer gets that this visit had been set up in advance. If Mahmut had picked up the phone when his mother called, would she have reminded him that Yusuf was coming?)
This movie is really making me want to read Pamuk's Istanbul.
Oh and one other thing -- the moment when Mahmut flicks on the light and you the viewer see Yusuf sleeping there -- or if you are distracted by the cat at that point, a couple of seconds later -- this moment contains the whole period of the afternoon and evening, leaves you to imagine what Yusuf has been doing this whole time. This is the information density I'm talking about above.
Monday, May third, 2010
The two principal characters of Distant are both, in distinct ways, very very unlikeable. That's kind of too bad because you spend (well, I spent) much of the movie sympathizing with them, seeing yourself reflected in Mahmut's lonely, arrogant voyeurism as much as in Yusuf's awkward, creepy incompetence. These characters are not individuals I want to identify with -- yet Ceylan seduced me into it...