Category: Film Reviews

Winter Sleep (Kis Uykusa, Turkey-France-Germany 2014) – theatrical or cinematic?


One of the characters in this film uses the word ‘awesome’ twice: it was my response after my first viewing of the film. The film is a worthy follow-on to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s earlier masterpiece Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da, 2011), though it is also rather different. This is rich and complex work of art. I feel that I need to think about it more and maybe view it again before I can write adequately about it.

I did, though, read the review in Sight & Sound (December 2014): rather lukewarm I thought. Referring to Ceylan’s love of Chekhov Jonathan Romney writes

Understandably, then that it should feel theatrical;..

He comments on one recurring aspect of the film:

But for much of the time, the characters do little except talk at length, in darkened rooms. [which he describes as ‘long, stagey discussions’].

He is right about the length, there is one such scene which runs for about 30m minutes. Such scenes, he thinks

feel like transcribed chapters of a novel.

Like fine theatre the film has great settings, excellent staging and seriously fine acting. But then much of cinema is, like theatre, a performance art. But it is a different art. In fact we talk not about staging but mise en scène. Among other things these sequences are beautifully lit. The rooms in which the characters talk are full of suggestive props and furnishings. But most importantly these images are presented via the camera lens.

Several of these scenes commence with a long shot in long take. And long shots and long takes recur in the scenes but are intercut with close ups, large close-ups, changing camera angles, reverse camera angles, pans and tilts. The camera changes our perception of the characters’ interactions and with close-up shows that they are doing a lot more than just talk: with often delicate but often powerful gestures, body movements and expressions. In the scene between Aydin and Nihal [a husband and wife] that Romney picks out there is also a mirror shot, this brings a notable new perspective at this point.

Likewise the sound is not live but recorded. The dialogue is clear and much of the soundtrack is natural sound. However segments of the film are set up by a solo piano. And the design in scenes of conversation uses noise, tone and timbre in a way that is rigorous and evocative.

Ceylon’s films feature intelligent and stimulating use of image and sound, and this film offers just that. If you have not seen it yet, seek out a cinema with it in the programme. Don’t wait for the Blu-Ray or Television airing – this film deserves a theatrical setting. Both of my viewings were at the Hyde Park Picture House which enjoys a classical auditorium: this is the way to get the full pleasure of this film.

Posts on The Global Film Book Blog

Just a reminder for followers of this blog that some of our postings are now appearing on The Global Film Book blog. In the main these concern films that relate in some way to the various chapters in the book but otherwise they take the same approach as postings here.

Recent postings include:

Ilo Ilo (Singapore 2013) 

The Past (le passé, France-Italy 2013) 

The Lunchbox (India/Germany/France/US 2013) 

Ringu (Ring, Japan 1998) 

Nick’s Favourites 2013

Bullock's star turn

Bullock’s star turn

Gravity (US/UK) – unlike Roy I wasn’t bothered by Ryan’s (Bullock) backstory, maybe I was busy being ‘blown away’ by the visuals. It has the best use of 3D I’ve seen, when the tears come into focus as they drift towards us was particularly effective. Clooney’s paternal voice, I think, worked brilliantly to emphasis Ryan’s task when she’s left alone to survive.

Before Midnight (US) – like Gravity, Richard Linklater excels in his use of long takes enabling us to wonder at Julie Delpy’s and Ethan Hawke’s embodiment of their characters. The only downside to anticipating the next film is I will be so much older.

Philomena (UK) – it was fascinating to see Steve Coogan’s persona inhabiting the Martin Sixsmith character adding real wit to what might have been ‘simply’ a grim indictment of the Catholic Church.

McCullin (UK) – an insight into one of the greatest war photographers. McCullin’s humanity is juxtaposed with the inhumanity of what he has photographed.

Lore (Aus-Ger-UK) – Cate Shortland’s brilliant ‘arty’ direction enhances this story about the fate of children of Nazis in the immediate aftermath of the war.

The Impossible (Spain) – a combination of gripping story-telling, the tsunami disaster of 2004, and fabulous special effects made this the roller coaster ride of 2013.

Keith’s favourites from 2013

Ceasar Must Die by the Taviani Brothers.

Ceasar Must Die by the Taviani Brothers.

This has been a pretty good year for movies though I thought that it was not as strong as 2012.

My favourites among the new releases in the order which I saw them:

I Wish / Kiseki, Japan 2011.

Director and writer Hirokazu Kore-Eda produces a magical portrait of the world of childhood.

Caesar Must Die / Cesare deve morire, Italy 2011. Written and directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Brilliant, Shakespeare’s play produced and performed in the high-security Rome Prison of Rebibbia. One groans that these talented filmmakers’ work only occasionally makes it into the UK market.

Paradise: Love, Faith, Hope / Paradies: Liebe, Glaube, Hoffnung Austria, Germany, France 2012. This trilogy of films from Ulrich Seidl is impressive both in its formal rigour and in the moral rigour with which it treats is characters. At times I laughed at times I cried.

The Great Beauty / La grande bellezza, Italy / France 2013, directed by Paolo Sorrentino.

The most stylish film I have seen this year: the final track along the Tiber is magnificent.

The Artist and the Model / El artista y la modelo Spain 2012.

Its greatest virtues are the script by Jean-Claude Carrière and the director Fernando Trueba: the black and white ‘scope’ cinematography of Daniel Vilar: and the pairing of Jean Rochefort and Claudia Cardinale.

Best Documentary that I have seen:

McCullin UK 2012. Directed by Jacqui and David Morris.

This was a record of the work of Don McCullin, who has specialised in war photography. This is a powerful record of a portfolio of really fine work, and the moral dilemmas involved in covering war are clearly set out.

The most impressive performance that I have seen:

Barbara Sukowa in Hannah Arendt, though I found the film problematic.

My favourite canine performance:

Lutz in The Wall / Die Wand, despite the traumatic scene late in the film.

Silent films:

For me the best was The Self-Seeker / Shrurnyk, UkrSSR 1929 and directed by Mykola Shpykovskyi and featured in the Ukrainian programme at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto. The nominal hero of the film and title is Apollon; a petit bourgeois caught up in the Civil War between ‘reds’ [the good guys] and ‘whites’ [the bad guys]. But the real star is a camel that invariably saves the day.

The heroic camel in The Self-Seeker

The heroic camel in The Self-Seeker

The discovery of the year was the work of  Ol’ga Preobraženskaja, whose film were featured at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna. Among these gems was Kaštanka (USSR, 1926) which featured my favourite canine performance from early cinema, Jacky as the title character.

Most annoying film of the year:

It has to be Django Unchained USA 2012 from Quentin Tarantino.

The film clearly involves a wealth of talent, but ‘never has so much been expended to so little effect’’

The film I most disliked:

Only God Forgives Denmark, France, USA 2012.

I wonder if it is derogatory to David Lynch to suggest that this is a poor pastiche of one of his films.

The film I found most dubious:

Act of Killing various UK countries 2012.

Joshua Oppenheimer refers to cinema verité regarding his documentary revisiting the 1965 Indonesian genocide: actually it falls between fly-on-the-wall and Big Brother.

Finally, my nomination for Audience of the Year:

all those brave film buffs who came along to the Gothic Film Festival at Kirkstall Abbey in early November. One kind soul offered me a blanket to wrap in. I thought it was worth it.