Dir/scr: Fatih Akin. Ger.2005. 90mins.
Following on the heels ofhis Golden Bear win for Head-On at last year's Berlin Film Festival,Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin shows a different side of his artisticpersonality in Crossing The Bridge: The Sound Of Istanbul, a lovingmusical homage to that glorious city straddling Asia and Europe.
Though it feels a bit longat 90 minutes (an endemic problem with the music documentary genre, moreso withits most ambitious specimens), the music - which runs from Turkish rock andhip-hop to more traditional folk and pop offerings - is almost alwaysthoroughly engaging.
The film is so informativeand ranges so widely, in fact, that its theatrical possibilities are limitedthrough its lack of focus (unlike Wim Wenders' Buena Vista Social Club,which cleverly centred on one sort of music and one cast of characters). But itshould enjoy a rich life on European television, while festival programmerseverywhere looking for a spirited toe-tapper as a break from more plodding arthousefare would be well advised to give Crossing The Bridge a look. Recentsales include to Soda Pictures for the UK.
The film is organised arounda trip made by German musician Alexander Hacke, who scored Head-On, todocument the incredible variety of Turkish music and, if possible, betterunderstand its people. He's an intrepid investigator, seeking out, with equalenthusiasm, both famous old movie star/singers and druggy buskers playing inparks for handouts.
A large part of the funcomes from the interspersed clips from old movies showing such celebrities asOrhan Gencebay and Muzeyyen Senar (still lively at age 86) in their prime.
Whirling dancers recall thedervishes of earlier years and such distinctive native instruments such as theoud, saz, and darbuka show up, often in imaginative pop arrangements. If thefilm can be faulted in any way, it might that it is just too much of a goodthing.
Mercifully, Akin manages tokeep the contributions of the talking heads to quip-length punctuations, but onthe other hand he does not hesitate to supply a bit of technical informationwhere needed, say, regarding how the typical Turkish beat differs from its'Western' counterpoint.
That very division betweenEast and West, especially its most pernicious recent political appearance asthe inevitable "clash of civilisations" touted by many US conservatives, isimplicitly castigated as an oversimplification of the way in which culturesactually relate to and feed off each other.
Politics also mildly showsup in brief segments on Kurdish single Aynur and the gypsy clarinettist SelimSesler, and in the explanations by Turkish rappers of the superiority of theirmusic to their American avatars, owing to the greater presence of a politicalcritique in their work. Similarly, Turkish, German, and English all crowd the soundtrack, exemplifying the productive mixing of cultures that is the film'sprinciple theme.
Technical credits aresuperb, especially the sound recording (accomplished by Hacke and obviouslycrucial here). Above all, the adroit editing, which manages to hold attentionfar longer than it might otherwise, through constant sprightly cutting onmusical accents.
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