Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beautiful 'Anatolia' Plays
SF Film Society Cinema This Week

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is Turkey's top film director on the international festival circuit and his most recent work "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" won the Grand Prix at Cannes last year, and was Turkey's submission for best foreign language Oscar, but was shut out for a nomination. 

"Anatolia" concerns a search by the police, a prosecutor and soldiers for the body of murder victim in the desolate countryside. Leading them is the confessed murderer who can't remember where he buried the corpse.

Most of the film takes place at night and Ceylan uses long takes, beautifully composed framing and a steady, gazing camera to reveal his characters and their backgrounds. There is just enough gallows humor to relieve the intense search and conflicts among the officials and the killer.

World cinema doesn't get much better than this.

If you like the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, whom Ceylan credits as a key influence, you'll appreciate "Anatolia's" stunning cinematography and patient story-telling. One difference between the directors is that Tarkovsky's themes of Christian redemption and hope are absent from Ceylan's somber and austere work.

I caught a screening on Monday night, with about twenty-five other movie-lovers who came out in the rain to see it. Not one person left during the show and I spoke with two people who were mesmerized by the film.

Make time to see "Anatolia" at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema on Post Street during its final screenings, where plays today and tomorrow. Click here for more info on showtimes and ticket information.

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