Oldies But Goodies: Looking Back to Black & White Films

I like having theme weeks. Yes, you heard me right. I enjoy watching a few Hitchcocks once in a while one after the other. Or Bergmans. Same applies to an Italiano week. Sometimes a nice Frenchie. Feels good to watch a couple of Grace Kellys if you stay in the weekend. Or watch biographies of musicians, painters and writers. These last couple of days, I’ve been in a mood to watch some oldies but goodies. I randomly felt like watching Manhattan this past Saturday, which made me take a look at the great black & white movies I’ve watched – and would like to watch over and over again.

Black & white movies leave much more room for emotions and thoughts. It seems so natural to me as if it wasn’t acting. I don’t get wowed by clothes or jewelry or grand set ups.. but rather about the script, personalities and the analogue music. There are no special effects, no computerized backgrounds. Everything is as it seems. 

If you haven’t truly enjoyed a black and white movie till today.. give it another chance. Below are the ones I watch over and over again – without getting tired, and as excited as the first time. There’s lots to discover in there. If you don’t like romance, try thriller. If you don’t enjoy Godard, try Woody Allen. If Fellini is too slow, try Scorsese. If you don’t enjoy Manhattan, try Paris – or even a deserted volcanic island in the Mediterranean. You will enjoy the company of Monica Vitti, Claudette Colbert, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Humphrey Bogart and many more. And when you do – please let me know.

Un Homme et Une Femme by Claude Lelouch 1966 
Casablanca by Michael Curtiz 1942
Dr. Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick 1964
Manhattan by Woody Allen 1979
L’Avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni 1960
À Bout de Souffle by Jean-Luc Godard 1960
Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock 1960
Roman Holiday by William Wyler 1953
The Big Sleep by Howard Hawks 1946
Pi by Darren Aronofsky 1998
Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese 1980
The Philadelphia Story by George Cukor 1940
Temps Modernes by Charlie Chaplin 1936 
Les quatre cents coups by François Truffaut 1959
Persona by Ingmar Bergman 1966
Brief Encounter by David Lean 1945
It Happened One Night by Frank Capra 1934
La Règle du Jeu by Jean Renoir 1939
Spellbound by Alfred Hitchcock 1945

Did he, or didn’t he? Will she, or won’t she?

I’ve been meaning to watch Last Night since the day I’ve seen its trailer. Yes it took me some time to watch it, but even more time to write about it – procrastination meets lack of inspiration . Although the movie itself takes around 90 minutes – I’ve spent at least another 90 minutes to give it a thought.

Michael and Joanna, once college sweethearts and now a married couple that live in NYC, attend an event hosted by Michael’s firm. Takes seconds for Joanna to notice Laura,  the stunningly attractive colleague whom Michael never mentioned, and her attraction to him. The next morning, Michael goes away with Laura on a business trip. The same morning, Joanna, the questioning wife, runs into an old – but never quite forgotten – love, Alex and agrees to have drinks with him before he returns back to Paris. As the night progresses and tempation increases, each couple must confront who they are when they are together and when they are apart.  Where will temptation take them? Did he do it – or didn’t he? Will she do it – or won’t she?

Last Night is a thoughtful approach to relationships. It’s a film about choices – the choice you make to be with someone. It’s real – and it’s natural. These characters could have been anybody you or I know. The situation in which they found themselves could have happened to you, to me or anybody else we know. It’s a tale of fidelity and infidelity  – and deals with very real questions that have concerned almost every couple at one point or another.

On one hand, there is a man cheating on his wife – mostly physical attraction to “that other women”. Yet on the other one, you see a women still feeling something for an old love – whom she thinks of everytime things go wrong or everytime she can’t sleep. It really is emotionally draining to watch events unfold between these individuals. Made me think at some point which is worse.. having an affair purely physical? or realizing you love somebody else while you’re married? In case of physical impulses, is it more likely to disappear? Do you forget as time goes by? But the moment you realize you love someone else, can you go back home and simply pick up where you left off?

At the beginning of the movie, I really wanted Michael and Joanna to work things out. But then Joanna seemed a better fit with Alex so I wanted things to happen between Michael and Laura. Why did I think that way? Is it fair if both of them cheat? If something happens between Michael and Laura, is it then legit that Joanna gets back to Alex? I wanted both relationships to win – but they simply cannot. Needs to end one way or another – and either way, it was going to end badly.

How much time does it take to trust someone? How do we know if we trust the other person enough in a relationship? The frustrations and questions that arise while the relationship is being built at the beginning.. a whole lot more arise once it settles down. How about marriage – how do you balance it? The temptation for infidelity – does it happen to everyone? Once it does, does it go away?

Go figure.

Les Amours Imaginaires: Love Beyond Reason

Les Amours Imaginaires is a love story. Yet certainly not like the ones you’ve recently seen or heard. Marie and Francis are two close friends. They meet Nicolas, an extremely good-looking androgynous visitor to Montréal, and begin hanging out with him. Yet as time goes by, they realize both have fallen for him.

There’s not much to say about this movie – except from recommending it to you. It’s an experimental, unconsummated and unusual romantic triangle in which we watch the rivalry of Marie and Francis in seducing the flirty Nicolas and avoiding to admit it to each other. Written, edited and directed by a 21-year-old Québécois, Xavier Dolan, the 95-minute feature is a cinematic dream. With statue-like features, Nicolas becomes the object of desire of Marie, a sensual and sassy Audrey Hepburn, and Francis, her earnest gay friend.

This movie very much reminded me of Jules et Jim – couplings that take place in the imaginations but do not exist in reality. It’s poetic, it’s romantic and it’s certainly very very funny. In an interview with a magazine, Dolan said one of the purposes of making this movie was to spend time with his two close friends. Seems like he certainly did enjoy that time he spent with Monia Chokri and Niels Schneider.

I leave you with two videos from the movie so you get a glimpse of it. Dalida’s pop anthem Bang Bang is almost the theme song – but there are other cool tracks from popsters also.

Enjoy.

And the O-O-Oscar Goes To… The K-K-King’s..

I traded my Sunday night sleep for the Academy Awards last night. Not quite sure whether it was worth it, the night had both goods and bads. Frankly, I had higher expectations. 

To begin with, the red carpet was OK – I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary. My favorites were Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchette and Camilla Alves. What a beauty! Especially Camilla Alves in a fascinating black gown by Kaufman Franco, and Jennifer Lawrence in a breathtaking Calvin Klein by Francisco Costa. Seemed like simplicity won over haute couture this year.

 

Anne Hathaway and James Franco.. are among the people who are not supposed to host the Academy Awards. Simple as that. Although I was very excited to see Franco – and in between the lines, one of the main reasons why I was up till so late was to watch him – I thought it was one of the dullest Oscar hostings I’ve watched in a long long time. There seemed to be no chemistry between the two of them. Hathaway was too giggly – wooted every single actor/actress she introduced like an obsessed 16-year-old-Backstreet-Boys-fan. Franco, on the other hand, gave almost no emotion. Was he bored or what? Anne and James tried but fell short – to such extent that when they brought Billy Crystal on stage, I wished he it took over!

Loved Kirk Douglas and his humor (which didn’t seem as pre-written as all other presentors) – who just turned 94 and presented the supporting actress. Colin Firth was stunning, very charismatic and his geniune smile made me even a stronger supporter. Christian Bale – it was great to hear him speak with a normal accent. No need to mention, there was a Hugh Jackman lovefest in the air – I had a tough time understanding why there were so many references to him when he wasn’t even nominated.

On the awards side, most of my predictions were in line with the final pick of 6000 Academy members who voted throughout this process. The King’s Speech was certainly predicted to sweep the awards. Colin Firth got best actor – which I thought he truly deserved for that stunning performance. Christian Bale, who portrayed a completely different persona in the Fighter, got supporting actor. Natalie Portman well deserved the Oscar for best actress, and Melissa Leo for the supporting one. Only for documentary, I wished Exit through the Giftshop won. Not that Inside Job wasn’t interesting, on the contrary, the documentary about the causes and consequences of the financial crisis of 2008 was pretty interesting/informative – but I found the whole idea of Exit through the Giftshop a much more interesting, a much more one of a kind one. For directing, I guess my theory of the Social Network victories leading up to a Fincher best director triumph proved wrong. I was also sad that Javier Bardem and Biutiful left with empty hands.

Re: best picture.. I’m a little confused what the most important criteria here is. It sure is a blend of producing, directing, acting and writing efforts – yet something must weigh a little heavier. Is it performance of actors/actresses? Is it originality of script? Is it whether it might wow you throughout a unique journey? According to stats, 47% of Best Picture winners up until today were in the drama category, while 11% was in historical/epic. King’s Speech was stunning, certainly. Great performance by Rush and Firth.. it was so human, it was so genuine.  It was almost impossible not to sympathize with the character. But Black Swan was another experience. It was a journey.. it was about moves, music, feelings, illusions, dreams, disappointments.. so I personally favored Black Swan as I saw it as a more artistic piece – yet my prediction was proved to be wrong.

While we’re at it, did you know.. ?

– The shortest Oscar ceremony ever was the first, held in 1929; it lasted only about 15 minutes as all the winners had been announced three months earlier.

– The famous golden statuette, formally named the Academy Award of Merit, got its more popular moniker “Oscar” when Academy librarian Margaret Herrick said that it resembled her Uncle Oscar. Before this name stuck, other people had tried to call it “the golden trophy,” “the statue of merit,” and “the iron man.”

– Until the 1950s, child actors who won the Oscars were given miniature statuettes instead.

– If you won an Oscar, the Academy wouldn’t just give it to you – you’d have to sign a winners agreement not to sell the award without first offering to sell it back to the Academy for $1. This makes sure that no award would be sold to private collectors.

– Sound technician Kevin O’Connell has earned 19 Oscar nominations over the years for his work on movies like The Rock, Pearl Harbor, and Spider-Man, but has never won – thus making him the biggest Oscar loser.

Blue Valentine: Falling In and Out of Love

A rather difficult-to-watch-movie, Blue Valentine is the story of the making and the breaking of a relationship – told fragmented, flashback style. It is the story of a beginning and of an end.

Dean, a guy in his early twenties, abandoned by his parents, who doesn’t even have a high school degree, falls in love with Cindy, a pre-med student. To such extent that he agrees to be the father of a daughter Cindy has, from someone else. Yet a few years go by – and they can barely talk to each other, they can barely understand each other. What happened along the way? How did this love begin anyhow? And how did it come to an end?

Told in a parallel structure, the present day scenes depict the breakdown of a marriage while the beginnings of the relationship from 6 years ago are revealed in flashback. Working for a removal company, assembling and dissembling the apartments of strangers, Dean complains about not finding pure love. Yet one day, while putting together the room of an elderly, he meets Cindy – who is taking care of her grandmother in the room across the hall. This is the beginning.

As a last effort to repair their marriage, Dean takes Cindy to a theme hotel where they spend a disastrous night together in the Future Room – yet another disappointment to be added to an expanding list. The frustrations and the anger both characters display at this failed encounter is incredibly painful to witness. The morning after, following a final fight at the hospital where Cindy works, she tells him she wants a divorce. This is the end.

What happened? This is what you’ll be asking yourself. Toward the end of the 6 years, Cindy is hardly able to remember why she wanted to marry Dean. Blue Valentine moves betweent the past and the present as if it’s trying to figure out what went wrong. From Dean’s point of view, not much did go wrong. He wanted to marry Cindy, he did and he still is married to her. Cindy, a woman who lost pride in her body and soul, is now even cold to the touch of the man she once loved. Who is guilty in this relationship? How did it even get to this point?

A lot of Blue Valentine is shot in series of close-ups and medium close-ups to bring us to the world of these two characters, Dean and Cindy, beautifully played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It’s a terribly sad film – wounded characters on one hand, wounding you on the other. Both performances are so convincing that even the flashbacks feel so real. Some scenes are hard to forget, like the evening when Dean plays an Elvis while Cindy tap-dances before him on the street. It’s so sweet, you really enjoy these two falling in love. Yet as minutes pass, you feel closer to their end. It’s like the heartbreaking formula of romance, the recipe of love:  on one hand we watch love forming itself, on the other, we project the confusions and sorrows of our past and present hearts, and watch love un-doing itself. At times, you might even feel like an intruder who happens to hear conversations that aren’t meant to be heard.

Falling out of love is as puzzling as falling in love. Blue Valentine is a powerful, brilliantly acted, heatbreaking character study, and an exploration of the ways in which love can die and feelings can gradually fade. It is painfully honest. Sometimes love just does not work. Sometimes love is just blue.

The K-K-King’s S-S-Speech

Set in the 1920s and 1930s, The King’s Speech is an instantly absorbing true-story drama about the relationship between an ideal odd couple: introverted stammerer King George VI and his exuberant Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. The Duke must overcome his debilitating stammer and rally the British people during the dark days before WWII.

The film begins with Prince Albert, son of King George V, getting ready to speak at the Wembley Stadium with his wife Elizabeth by his side. Yet the stammering speech is nothing but public humiliation, and unsettles thousands of listeners. Seeking to overcome his impediment, Albert sees various speech therapists. Suggested treatments range from smoking as a way of relaxing to reading outloud with seven marbles in his mouth. As a result of the constant failure and the accompanying heavy anger, he vows to cease any further attemps to cure his handicap.

Behind his back, the Duke’s wife Elisabeth goes to meet Lionel Logue – an Australian speech therapist that now lives in London – and convinces her husband to pay him a visit. In their first session, Logue insists that the Duke calls him Lionel (avoiding more formal forms of addresses involving Mr. or Doctor) and in return, calls the Duke Bertie despite the social status of his patient. He proposes Albert to read Hamlet’s to be or not to be while listening to Mozart’s Marriage du Figaro on headphones – preventing him to hear his own voice while speaking. Albert, still thinking he stammered throughout, leaves the room with yet another sense of failure. Just before doing so, Logue offers him the recording of his reading as a memory.

With mounting considerable public humiliation, one day while getting some rest, Albert decides to put on Logue’s recording. He is surprised: he hears himself reciting Shakespeare in his own voice – unbroken and unstammered. He returns to Logue, and their daily sessions begin. The memorable dialogue between Albert and Lionel develops further as the Duke’s father passes out, and the monarchy passes on to him as a result of his older brother’s choice of a twice-divorced Baltimore woman over his country.

The King’s Speech is the remarkable and unlikely dialogue between a Duke and a so-called-therapist with no doctor background or whatsoever. It is a dialogue between two men from the opposite sides of the class division. It is a dialogue between two friends.  This is a heart-breaking yet humorous story of a man who has so much to say – yet cannot articulate words and connect syllables. This is two brilliant actors acting brilliantly together.

Very few movies have the ability to literally take its audience into the story. Last night while I was watching this movie, I was smiling watching Colin Firth finishing a sentence without stammering and was putting a sad face feeling the embarassment/failure/humiliation he experienced when he could not even articulate the first word of a paragraph. This is a rich story of a teacher and a monarch with a flag-waving finale. Every character has its moments and instances. Every act is more meaningful than the previous one. The King’s Speech is a superbly executed insight into an untold piece of history. The dialogue is eloquent and the acting is sublime. It sure is one of the best films of the year – if not the best.

Here are the nominees.

It’s that time of the year. Rainy weather outside, great movies in the theatres, movie nights at home – a cup of tea, a safety blanket and my beloved couch. And of course.. the movie awards! Having left Golden Globes behind, the nominees for the Oscars were announced yesterday. By looking at the list, here are the stars that seem to be shining this year: Biutiful, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Rabbit Hole, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, I am Love, Exit through the Gift Shop, Inside Job, The Fighter, Inception and Toy Story 3. If you haven’t seen any or some, you still have 31 days to catch up.

To see the full list of nominations, see http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/83/nominees.html.

Minus 100.

A few days ago, when I mentioned a weekend with some good and bad – very very bad – movies, I did mean it. This blog entry – for the first time – will be about something I highly disliked. I will not advise you to do something – rather I will suggest you don’t do it.

A spontaneous Saturday morning lead to a great lunch by the Bosphorus. Great food, great friends and a glass of wine. All was perfect until I was persuaded to see Spread. It was a waste of time, money – and a slap in the face to the audience.

  • Bad storyline. Actually horrible storyline. Other than nudity, sex and nice houses, what is this movie about? Minus 20.
  • Wasted characters. Minus 10. Ashton is supposed to play a womanizer, yet he looks more like a guy magnet. The main female character through the first half of the movie is so ugly – you really do not desire to see her having sex all around her house.
  • Ashton’s style. Minus 40. Oh my. Where did you get those boots? At least wear some socks with them! How about those suspenders? And why on earth you never take those off? Do you call that sex appeal?
  • A few sex scenes are OK. But even they can’t save the movie for a cheap soft porn tag. Minus 10.
  • The tagline is its a business doing pleasure. Minus 10.
  • A “sex comedy” with plenty of sex and no comedy. Minus 10.

Total: – 100.

This movie, as Sinanation says, was Kakachino.

Copie Conforme: Kiarostami at his best

A man and a woman. In a small village in Tuscany. A mental journey. A story that could happen to you, to me or to anybody else.  Simply put, a conversation between two people – asking you to fill in the blanks.

I can’t tell you what this movie is about. Nor does the film want me to. I can only tell you the simple question you will be asking yourself: Have She and James met before? Is this a 15-year-old romance or an awkward first date?

This movie is strong – it changes itself and asks the unanswerable. And does so in three languages: English, French and Italian. Does it so nicely, so poetically, so beautifully and elegantly that it is sublime. Everything you think you’ve just realized about the characters starts slipping away as it progresses. You know things, then you don’t know them. You are sure of something, then you doubt it.

It is a great work of art. It is Kiarostami at his best.

À voir absolument.

Black Swan: A True Masterpiece

At the end of an amazing weekend with amazing friends, quality food and a bunch of movies – both good and bad (by bad, I mean very bad! ) choices – somehow all I remember is the Black Swan.

 

Black Swan is the latest masterpiece of Aronofsky – the director of Requiem for a Dream – starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis. I’m not sure about how to classify this movie. I guess you can call it a psychological thriller with a slight touch of a dark horror movie which leaves you emotionally drained at the very end.  What do you get when you mix ballet, Swan Lake, Natalie Portman, a breath-taking thriller, jealousy, revenge and 40 amazing costumes designed by Rodante?

Set within the highly competitive and prestigious world of a New York City ballet company, the story revolves around a production of Swan Lake. Nina, an emotionally immature and fragile perfectionist still lives with her mother in New York City’s Upper West Side. When the company’s director, Leroy, decides to retire the aging star, Winona Ryder, to find a new soloist for the upcoming production of Swan Lake, Nina seems to be a perfect fit for the timid and innocent White Swan. But to get the part, Nina must also be able to play the dark, sensual and seductive Black Swan – a role that seems rather suitable for the company’s newest member Lily. Despite his misgivings, Leroy gives Nina the role, sensing within her some kind of wildness hidden beneath her calmness and timidity.

As the opening night of the Swan Lake gets nearer, the pressure on Nina gets heavier. What begins as a simple state of mind that could be explained by a stressful job and a repressive mother soon takes the form of a much darker psychosis – Nina begins to hallunicate, seeing her face on other women, indulging fantasies of self-mutilation, and grows paranoid that Lily, recently assigned as her alternate, is conspiring to take her part. When the two compete for the part, Nina finds a dark side to herself. As she gets into a darker psychosis, she is dancing the Black Swan better and better.

Black Swan is a beautifully disturbing movie. Aronofsky, mostly somewhere in between madness and genius in his movies, goes into deeper complexity with Black Swan. Not only you ask yourself questions while you are watching it, but it gets stuck into your mind for some time after you finish it as well. It is beautifully shot. While Aronofsky shows the physicality of the ballet – straining limbs, torn ligaments, bloodied feet – there is a constant nervous energy by the cinematographer’s follow shots.  The sound editing is similarly claustrophobic, amplifying Nina’s every rasping breath or compulsive scratch of skin. In addition to all these, Natalie Portman, surprises with a bravura performance.  

Black Swan is the best film I’ve seen for a long long time. I couldn’t get my eyes off the screen – couldn’t stop asking myself questions while I was watching Nina losing sight of herself. The 108 minutes were dark, obsessed, paranoiac and tense. But left me hypnotized and fulfilled. Nina transported me into another world. This movie was the most artfully acted and visually stunning movie of the year. The drama, scenery, costumes and music were genius… the casting was truly magnificent. It did not make me feel good or make me smile  – but certainly that was not the intention. 

Go see it. Experience it.

On another note – If you’re more interested Rodarte’s Behind the Scenes for Black Swan, you can check the article on Interview Magazine.

Dress the Part / Framework

Below are some excellent movie posters inspired by men’s style – that were designed by Moxy Creative HouseDress the Part highlights ten cult films via their iconic style. I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men lately – not gonna lie – that might have something to do w/ that too.

Wait – there’s more!

They also have a Framework collection that illustrates the most iconic men’s eyewear of the last hundred years. That one is a compilation of posters featuring 28 of the most iconic glasses from male characters in music, film, entertainment and politics.

If you’d like to get a print of any of these, you can check Moxy Creative House’s website to order yours.

you will meet a tall dark stranger.

Always been a Woody Allen fan, always will be.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is Allen’s latest feature, set in London, with a cast including Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch and Naomi Watts. Although I won’t tell you much – because I, myself, don’t know much yet either – the story follows a pair of married couples Alfie and Helena, and their daughter Sally and husband Roy.

The movie, which opens on Wednesday in Manhattan, is expected to open in Europe and in Turkey around mid-November. To get a sneak peak before it hits the screens, here is the trailer.

Enjoy!

Day & Night: Better Together than Apart

To Sinan… For making each day a better one.

When Day, a sunny fellow, encounters Night, a stranger of distinctly darker moods, sparks fly! But as their suspicisons turn to curiosity, they are delighted to find that this budding friendship can offer a new perspective on the world.

Although cinema is a true passion, I never had an interest in short films. Why? I don’t know. Honestly speaking, I hadn’t even watched one that I remember. A few weeks ago, I was told to watch Day & Night. It is a Pixar animated short film directed by Teddy Newton – which follows two handdrawn 2-D characters: Day and Night.

Inside Day is a day scene with a sun in the center, and inside Night is a night scene with a moon instead. At first, whatever goes on inside each of the characters – along with their actions and emotions – expresses normal events that typically occur within a day or a night. When Day smiles, there is a rainbow inside him. When Night is happy, firworks explode. One day, Day and Night meet. In the very beginning, they are uneasy about each other. They become frightened and jealous of each other since what is occuring in Day is not occuring in Night – and vice versa. Eventually, Day and Night befriend as they discover each other’s unique qualities – and realize that each offers a different view of the same world. At the end, what they saw in each other, they start seeing them in themselves – as Day becomes night, and Night becomes day.

Although clocks in at just six minutes, this featurette is definitely much more than two mute figures. It’s rather tough to explain the artful snatch of Day and Night. Not sure whether it’s available online for free, but you can access it on iTunes and Apple TV.  To catch a glimpse, here is the making of it.

All War. No Peace.

Under the accomplished direction of Michael Hoffman, The Last Station takes its audience to Tolstoy’s last days: an emerging international movement, the great passion and frustration of his life, the Countess Sofya, his young secretary/pupil, Valentin Bulgakov, and Vladimir Chertkov, the head of his movement.

In 1910, during the last year of writer and philosopher Count Leo Tolstoy, his idealistic disciples, led by Vladimir Chertkov, turn against Countess Sofya, his more practical and family-oriented wife. The Count and Countess have a 47-year long loving marriage, but his idealistic and spiritual side begins to contradict with her more down-to-earth and conventionally religious views. With the Tolstoyans attempting to persude a new will which would negate all of his copyrights, Countess Sofya is faced with adequate support after his death. The will and its implications are seen through the eyes of Valentin – who finds himself meditating between the two sides. In the end, the Count reluctantly signs the will, and leaves his wife who bore his 13 children to travel to an undisclosed location where he can continue his work undisturbed and unjudged. Sofya unsuccessfully attemps suicide; Tolstoy sickens during the journey. The film ends with his death near the Astapovo train station where the Countess is allowed to see him for one very last time.

Although the 2-hour movie takes a look at Tolstoy’s last days, focusing mainly on his relationship with Sofya, one can still learn a lot about his whole life – both his ideology and personal struggle. It is definitely not a typical pure love story – but it presents two different love stories: one that nurtures while destroys, and another one that tries to avoid committment. And Valentin somewhere in between the two.

A tour de force performance by Helen Mirren – aggrieved, charming, seductive, furious, painted as hysterical at times but also a woman with her own dignity… I strongly recommend you to see this surprisingly warm, delicately photographed, whimsically scored and patiently paced story about the great writer of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, whose philosophy was about love and peace. Yet love he had in abundance; peace did not arrive.

on relationships

My very first favorite movies reflecting on relationships, morality, love, hate, doubt, trust, fidelity, fear, worry, care for another, friendship – in short, anything about life – were and still are by Woodie Allen. Whether you have seen some of his old pieces of heaven – like Manhattan, Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, Melinda & Melinda or Everyone Says I Love You – or some of his more contemporary ones – like Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Whatever Works – you have an idea of what I am about to say next.

Some filmed in great black & white photography, some in vivid colors, with beauty and depth, accompanied by several jazz tunes, his films take a great look at complicated, wrecked and ruined relationships, words vs. actions, moral structure, humor, poignant romanticism, loss, choices, his famous “is-this-person-someone-I’d-want-to-get-involved-with?” conversations, self-criticism, unspoken thoughts, hidden desires, independence, dependence and in most cases, his love affair with New York. His pieces are one of the truest and most bittersweet romances.

Here is what he thinks about love and relationships – in his own words. Do you agree? Have your own scheme/plot already found you? Or are you one of those to believe that you haven’t got lucky yet?

“I have a pessimistic view of relationships. My view has always been that you talk about it with your friends, you scheme, you plot, and you see psychoanalysts. You see marriage counselors, get medicated, do everything they can, but in the end you have to luck out. It’s complete and total luck. You have all these exquisite needs, some woman has all her exquisite needs, and the odds of all those wires going together are very, very slim. If one of those wires is not there then it gets annoying and she gets dissatisfied, you get dissatisfied. So, to get it all clicking in is a very happy accident. It does happen to people, because there are so many people in the world, which statistically a certain amount of them luck out. They meet someone, fall in love, they are happy with that person, no real friction, but its luck. This is my observation of it, this can be argued, but if you ask me I would say that’s what I’ve learned. All the advice, planning, self help books, anything you do, dating services, you’ve got to get lucky. If you do it’s great. Some people do, but you can see by the divorce rate, the amount of relationships people go through, and the amount of people in unhappy relationships but stay together because of inertia, because of children, fear of loneliness… there are very few really wonderful ones. You have to get lucky.”

A Single Man

A great cast, a highly emotional script, an overly art-directed décor, an impeccable styling and a touching soundtrack… Although his first attempt as a movie director, A Single Man, an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s masterly 1964 short novel, is a bold inner journey in the 60s Los Angeles by Tom Ford.

George, an incredibly stylish and good looking English professor at a small college, is a single man, struggling to find a reason to live after losing his 16-year young lover, Jim, in an accident. He is “just getting through the goddamn day.”  Charlotte, performed by Julianne Moore, is a close British fellow, who is in love with him – even though she knows there is no hope. Just when George’s midlife crisis starts to take its toll on him and puts the idea of suicide in his mind, he befriends Kenny, one of his students.

The movie is too beautiful to be true. The black and white flashbacks to George and Jim sunbathing on rocks look like a Calvin Klein ad. Colin Firth is styled beautifully – from every single detail of his clothing to every single detail of his drawers of perfectly folded clothes. As he states, “It takes time in the morning for me to become George, time to adjust to what is expected of George and how he is to behave. By the time I have dressed and put the final layer of polish on the now slightly stiff but quite perfect George I know fully what part I’m suppose to play”. Similarly Charlotte’s swinging style, early 60’s furniture and wardrobe are as artsy.  Nicholas Hoult, the little cute kid we remember from About a Boy,and Ford’s current eyewear model,  is a mature gentleman trying to understand himself and the world around him, breaking through his youth.

The movie not only succeeds in seducing viewer’s eyes, but also ears. One of the best soundtracks I’ve listened to… warm and inviting tones by Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi. Gentle touches of harp, dancing violins, cello. “Drowning”,”The Stillness of Mind”, “Snow”, “Daydreams”, “Swimming”, “Sunset” and “Clock Tick” are some of the sounds that capture the mood, the undertone and the melancholy.

The 101 minutes you spend in front of your sceen will have a lot of Tom Ford within – and his attention for detail. George’s shoes reminded me of Gucci’s earlier men collection, his overly organized glass-filled wooden house reminded me of Ford’s boutique on Via Verri in Milan, Charlotte’s look took me to magazine pages.

It’s an inner journey reflecting on love, death, intimacy, attachment, habit, the difficulty and, most of the times, the necessity of foregoing the past and living in the present tense – and I am sure you will enjoy it.

thumbs UP

Every time I really enjoy an animated movie, I realize we don’t necessarily need actors, actresses, a complicated script written in 19th-century-English or high-cost scenes set in big cities to really feel something. Sometimes, only colors and a few animated characters can be enough to give you chills when you have a touching and whimsical story — and of course a perfect music to complement it.

Up, the latest animated feature from Disney + Pixar, for me, wasn’t a cheerful kids movie. It had a serious story: the story of Carl, an old man in deep regret and longing after the death of his wife, Ellie. Especially the beginning of the movie felt very emotional. The first third mostly introduces Carl as a lost and introvert soul after a happy life with his childhood sweethear, Ellie. The few minutes during which you see their relationship touches on themes rather more serious than those in kids storybooks: love, romance, marriage, financial difficulty, an unsuccessful pregnancy, loneliness and growing old among others. Once Ellie passes away, the aging hero, Carl becomes more and more alienated every day in his neighborhood. One day, he fights with a construction worker and smacks the man with his cane. As a consequence, he’s seen as a danger to his surrounding and is to be put into a retirement home. Carl decides to tie thousands of ballons to his cute little colorful wooden house to float away from his troubles and sail towards Ellie’s lifelong dream.

The emotional foundation, I thought, was remarkable. There’s a lot of serious stuff going on for an animated movie — felings like love, melancholy, loneliness, longing, adventure, romance, a relationship between an 8-year and 78-year old and many more… It did take me to another world – could take you too.

Inspiration: Michelangelo Antonioni

When I discovered Netflix – and its surprisingly infinite and diverse collection – in New York in 2007, I started making a list of the films I should see before I move back to Turkey. I began to skim the entire collection through themes. One day I would look at Asian movies, the other one, focus on Godard. Add the Juliette Binoche ones today, check the Cannes/Berlin winners tomorrow…  After a few months and numerous films, I realized most of my highest-rated movies were among the Criterion Collection. So the decision was taken: I was going to do my best to watch as many Criterion Collection movies as I could.

One day last winter, I ordered L’avventura (1960) — that’s when I first met Michelangelo Antonioni. Then came the remainder of the trilogy: La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962).

An Italian master visual stylist, Antonioni, an existentialist, developed his characters on subjects like l’ennui, purposeless, the abstract.. combined those with long shots, slow motions, complex images — mostly in black and white. The way he captured the world and experienced with his camera was different than any other film director I’ve seen before. What many other artists and directors run away from or try to avoid.. the mystery of life, human loneliness, isolation, silence in life.. were grasped at beauty in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times in his motion pictures.

I didn’t succeed in finishing off my Netflix list – the rest of the list is still with me, printed, waiting to be gone through over some time. Watching slow black and white movies is not enjoyable for everyone, I agree. But if you really enjoy silence instead of words, long shots instead of action, and most importantly, something new that changed the vision of cinema.. give this trilogy a try.

On another note – if you’re interested in reading more about Antonioni, Taschen has an amazing publication on him: Poetry and motion: the film art of Michelangelo Antonioni. It’s short and to the point, illustrated with lots of great photos. Here is the book.

Cinematic Rebellion

Some know him by his stencil of a little girl letting a heart balloon go away… Some saw his graffiti on Israel’s West Bank barrier showing how life looks on the other side… Others might have seen his rat stencils around… Or his pop art Warhol-style retro Kate Moss screenprint. Some probably heard about his replacing 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s album with a sticker which said “Paris Hilton, Debut Album. Featuring Why Am I Famous?, What Have I Done?, and What Am I For?” In short, many have seen his strikingly satirical and humorous street art pieces – often in shape of rats, monkeys, policemen, soldiers, children and the elderly – containing slogans on politics, culture, celebrity satire, consumerism, capitalism, war and unethics.

Last Sunday, the Sundance Film Festival had a surprise: a movie that didn’t appear in the catalogue; neither the director identity or its whereabout was known. It was a 98-minute movie/documentary about the British infamous street artist Banksy, in which he speaks on camera for the first time. According to the trailers, viewers don’t get to see him this time either – all we get is him photographed in the dark, wearing a hoodie with his voice digitally disguised.

Structured as a film-within-a-film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, [according to L.A. Times’ review ] looks at guerilla art and its main creators. “Trying to make a movie which truly conveys the raw thrill and expressive power of art is very difficult. So I haven’t bothered.”, Banksy said in a statement, “Instead this is a simple everyday tale of life, longing and mindless vandalism.”

Not sure when it’ll open in theatres but no doubt it’ll be an interesting slice of graffiti cinema. Stay tuned.

!f İstanbul

If you complain about not getting the chance to see some movies in theatres, check out the 9th AFM International Independent Film Festival that will be held from February 11th thru the 21st. Tickets now on sale.

There’s plenty of stuff you might be interested in. Check out http://2010.ifistanbul.com/ for more info.

Below are some of the movies that caught my attention. Do not hesitate to share your opinion and/or comments.

La Nana

Winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize @ Sundance 2009. Director Sebastián Silva takes viewers into Raquel’s, a housekeeper’s, daily life and makes them painfully aware of her complete lack of privacy. Whatever mood she’s in, whatever personal feelings she has for individual members of the family, Raquel has nowhere to hide.

Soy Cuba

A Soviet/Cuban production that was made initially in 1964 (but didn’t receive well by either Russian or Cuban public) is re-discovered 30 years later. The movie consists of 4 distinct short stories about the suffering of the Cuban people and their reactions.

L’Epine dans le Coeur

Official Selection Cannes 2009. A documentary by music video/film director Michel Gondry. Suzette, Michel Gondry’s aunt, was a school teacher from 1952 to 1986 and she tells Michel how it was to be a teacher by then in a rural and isolated part of France. But little by little, Michel discovers some family stories he was totally unaware of and uses his camera to explore it in a subtle but very emotional way.

An Education

Coming-of-age-drama in 1961 England, An Education takes a look at the beautiful schoolgirl Jenny, her provencial parents, her first love, her choices and her dreams fall apart.

C’est pas moi, je le jure!

Winner of the Best Movie @ Berlin Film Festival, the film is about a little boy who keeps trying to kill himself. In-between his suicide attempts, he lives a pretty normal kid life. His parents fight, there is a cute little girl that lives next door, and he hates school. The movie plays out in a symphony of funny, sad, ironic and dark events.

FILM IST. a girl & a gun

Using images from the first four and a half decades of cinematography, taken from 11 archives across the world, Gustav Deutsch has constructed a musical “film drama in five acts” whose central thread is supplied by ancient mythology, fragmentary quotes of Hesiod, Sappho and Plato.

Precious

In 1987, Harlem, Precious is the gritty tale of a black, 350-pound, HIV-positive, 16-year-old rape and incest victim. 

 

An Education

To Tara… for making my snowy Saturday evening much more enjoyable.

A year left behind with animated movies, international drama, bios, love stories, comedies… and finally a movie that is not similar to stuff I’ve recently seen… something that made me think.

Based on a short memoir written by Lynn Barber for the British literary journal Granta about her 1961 teenage affair with a man more than 20 years her senior, An Education was adapted for the screen by Nicky Hornby, and stars Carey Mulligan as 16-year-old Jenny (based on the young Lynn), and Peter Sarsgaard as David, the older man who shows her what life is beyond the classroom, her provencial parents and the suburbs.

In 1961 England, in the London suburb of Twickenham, the journey begins with a 16-year-old schoolgirl leaving an orchestra rehearsal. Walking with her cello, caught in the rain, Jenny is offered a ride by David, a handsome and apparently rich man. He pulls up in his Bristol sports car, tells her with a smile that she shouldn’t take a lift from a stranger but insists that he’s a music lover, and proposes that she put the cello in the car and walk alongside. First the cello, then herself, Jenny cannot resist and jumps in the car. That moment, brief though it is, marks the beginning of Jenny’s journey from innocence to experience.

As the movie unfolds, Jenny not only falls for David, a Jew and a wealthy lover of fine art and music, but also for his tasteful partner, Danny, who bids for pre-Raphaelite paintings at auctions, and Helen, his glamorous girlfriend à la mode. With an obvious ability to say the right thing at all times to all people, David even succeeds in talking Jenny’s provencial and shortsighted parents, portrayed by Cara Seymour and Alfred Molina, into taking her to weekend getaways to Oxford and to Paris. David is so good at what he does, he even seduces Jenny’s parents into believing in him.

Losing herself in the charms of a much older man, Jenny’s preparations to get into Oxford are derailed. The headmistress gives her two choices: an early marriage to David or an English degree. Both can’t be achieved. Just as Jenny decides to lean towards David, his betrayal soon brings her to her senses. By then, it may be too late for her to save her academic future and her reputation.

Every now and then, a perfomance comes along that takes me by storm. Carey Mulligan’s is certainly one of them. Jenny is a passionate Francophile who knows Juliette Greco lyrics by heart. She wants “to talk to people who know lots about lots, to smoke, to wear black and to listen to Jacques Brel”. She’s bright and intelligent but inexperienced and desperately wanting to be a sophisticate.

An Education is a dream of first love, from which the wake up could be slightly painful.

Soul Kitchen

I always thought it’d be much easier to make an audience cry than to genuinly make them laugh.  When it’s about love, relationships, people.. with a touch of soundtracks, a few teardrops, an emotional background.. then there you are. On the other hand, you can make a few jokes, make your audience laugh for a few minutes. But can you pull it off cleverly for 99 minutes?

Soul Kitchen is the story of Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos), a German-Greek wanna-be-chef, who turns a worthless warehouse into a restaurant in Hamburg. His girlfriend off to Shanghai, his tax bills waiting to be paid, a spine that’s killing him plus a troublesome brother (Moritz Bleibtreu) in jail that needs a part-time job… With the help of Birol Unel, another one of Akın’s regulars, the two brothers transform the locals-only restaurant into a hot spot for music, gourmet food and social scene. And the story unfolds when an old friend of Zinos comes up with a plan to destroy it.

Fatih Akın, the man behind Head On, The Edge of Heaven, In July, Crossing the Bridge: Sounds of Istanbul, welcomes 2010 with his latest movie: Soul Kitchen. Surprisingly, it’s a very straight forward movie – it’s not a drama and it’s not cold. Driven by amazing soundtracks ranging from soul to funk, from jazz to some Turkish and even Spanish tracks, it’s 99 minutes of color, composition, music, food, life and laughs. It looks good, it smells good, it tastes good. And surely, it sounds good too.

thenewyorkturkishfilmfestival

For those of you New Yorkers who’ll be around on December 2nd, 4th and 5th, the 11th New York Turkish Film Festival will be up and running at the School of Visual Arts on 23rd between 8th and 9th Avenue.

The three-day screenings will include debut films (Mommo: The Bogeyman and Autumn), The Last Season: Shawaks, a documentary that takes a closer look at the nomadic Shawak community near Tunceli in Eastern Turkey, and Milk and Chocolate, a short film about a young Turkish girl somewhere in between childhood and womanhood.  Also, two features from the contemporary Turkish cinema will be presented: Pandora’s Box and My Only Sunshine.

Although I personally haven’t watched it (missed it at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival), Pandora’s Box has been getting strong critics around the world. Directed by Yeşim Ustaoğlu and having won awards in Toronto, San Sebastian, New York and Thessalonica among others, it is the story of Nusret, her inner journey and unfolding past.

For schedule, tickets and venue information, visit: http://www.newyorkturkishfilmfestival.com/.

Almodóvar Style

The best – and I would say the most enjoyable – part of keeping up with a film director and his movies is getting to know him. It’s tough to admire every single work done by the same person – and surely is very rare – yet there are still some like Buñuel, Hitchcock, Bergman, Fellini, Lelouche, Antonioni, Godard, Kar-wai – among others – which succeed in establishing a special connection with the audience (or at least with me!), and most importantly, maintaining that connection at every single shot. After watching Los Abrazos Rotos, I simply felt that same connection with Pedro Almodóvar.

My first acquaintance with him was with Hable con Ella. For a 17 year old, it wasn’t an easy one to watch. The movie deals with miscommunication, relationships, loneliness, infidelity and love beyond loss. I was very much amazed by it – the thick Spanish accent which fortifies the meaning of every single word, the sound, the character names, the places and many more. Then came La Mala Educación, the story of two reunited childhood friends in the 60s, which takes the audience further to subjects like transexuality, drug abuse, symbols, passion and religion.

My interest then lead me to Volver, the story of three generations of women, Todo Sobre Mi Madre, his finest film, the quest of a mourning mother to find the father of his son and her encounters on the way, Carne Trémula, the story of a group of people and how they are intertwined in each other’s lives, Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios, the only movie that can make one laugh so much about nervous breakdowns…

And lastly I watched Los Abrazos Rotos which turned out of to be one of my favorite Almodóvar features. Slightly different than his usual style, it’s the story of a man who lives, who writes and who feels in the dark.  Very much alike the 1950s American Film Noir, Broken Embraces is  the story of Harry Caine, a writer, who loses not only his sight but also the meaning and direction of his life during a traffic accident. Rather tough to explain in a sentence or two since there’s so much going on in the movie, it’s a love triangle – intriguing, heart breaking, thought-provoking and entertaining at once. And most certainly an Almodóvar-style-character study. Amazing performance by Penélope Cruz who depicts his usual strong female character, soundtracks that make you shiver, references to older Almodóvar movies and many more. ..

Accepted  into the main selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival in competition for Palme d’Or, Broken Embraces is Almodóvar’s 3rd film to do so and 4th screening at the festival.

Do a favor to yourselves – and do not miss it.