Anatolia is long, powerful; Source is long, conventional
Also, Mike’s predictions for the Palme d’Or.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a Cannes favourite, and his latest film, the 157-minute opus Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, is his fourth consecutive film in competition. Working on a larger scale than in his previous films where he employs skeleton crew and a handful of actors, Ceylan makes a departure here and the film is more reminiscent of new Romanian cinema like Aurora and Police, Adjective than Distant or Climates.
It’s a slow journey, following a police excursion to find a corpse one night with the killer who has confessed but can’t (or won’t) identify where exactly the body was buried. The first 90 minutes of the film takes place in a stunningly shot night and is composed virtually entirely of men talking, the remainder of the running time takes place the following morning back in town when the doctor and prosecutor wrap up the case.
Frankly it’s unfair to position such a challenging film as the penultimate film in competition. At the press screening on Friday night, one audience member drew a big laugh applauding when it was announced on screen that the body had - finally - been found.
But Ceylan’s achievement is considerable, and his cocktail of sadness in the film, embodied particularly in the mournful eyes of the doctor (played by Muhammet Uzuner) packs a powerful punch. Ceylan merely hints at what has happened in the past and never hammers anything home. The reasons for the murder are not elucidated in much detail, likewise the reasons for the melancholy that plagues the doctor and the prosecutor. All we know is that the interaction between men and women is the motive for much of the conflict beneath the surface of this ambitious movie.
The final film in competition was Radu Mihaileanu’s latest crowdpleaser The Source, a whimsical story about Muslim women in a remote mountain village who withhold sex from their husbands in an effort to better their lot. It’s a mildly engaging fairy tale - far more coherent than Mihaileanu’s irritating last film Le Concert - but ultimately conventional and overlong. It was met with some loud booing in the Lumiere on Saturday morning, but what’s the betting that general audiences will find it more entertaining than the jaded end-of-Cannes audience.
That is it for this Cannes. I tried to watch the Un Certain Regard closer Elena this afternoon but was asleep within moments. I, like everyone still in Cannes, am exhausted and over-loaded with stimulation from a week and a half of cinema.
My choice for Palme d’Or would be Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre, with Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In and The Dardenne Brothers’ Kid With A Bike runners-up. My betting is that a Robert De Niro-led jury will go for The Tree Of Life. We find out on Sunday night.