Friday, June 17, 2005

Review | Crossing the Bridge

Crossing the Bridge -- The Sound of Istanbul
By Duane Byrge

Bottom line: Hip-hop trips on Arabesque in this cross-cultural musical mix but that old-fashioned Kurdish lament soars.

East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet is the refuted refrain of this musical exploration, namely the symbiosis of musical sounds in Istanbul, from eastern Anatolian to Western hip-hop.Scripted and directed by Fatih Akin ("Head-On"), this musical documentary likely will find its major audience in Germany, where the immigrant-minority Turk citizenry will take to its array of sounds, smears and social commentary as cultural nourishment.

Filmmaker Akin centers his musical exploration "Crossing the Bridge" around Alexander Hacke, a member of the German avant-garde group Einsturzende Neubauten. Ensconcing himself in Istanbul's Grand Hotel de Londres with a computer, Hacke embarks on recording the musical diversity of Istanbul, the Turkish city that is thought of as bridging the East and the West. Quite sagely, but almost disastrously, Hacke's musicological trip begins with a neo-psychedelic band, Baba Zula, whose influences run from Pink Floyd to Oriental strains. Unfortunately, the Baba Zula wawa is faux: It's a noxious mix of "flower power" with Arabian Nights kitsch -- marginally appealing to Europeans and anathema to Turks.

It's the worst kind of jam session, namely jamming together the asynchronous sounds of two vastly different traditions to create, well, an atonal mess. It's not until nearly the midpoint of this comprehensive film that "Bridge" finds its thematic voice and, ironically, when it contradicts itself with an emphasis on the musical purities of the separate traditions. Only when the multicultural conceit of vastly different musical traditions blending to produce a transcendent sound is muted does the film finally jell.

A musical high point, and the moment when the nonsensical notion of eliminating all differences within a multiethnic society is neatly decimated, is the rousing performance of Kurdish singer Aynur. Her glorious vocal lamentations of her oppressed people reverberates with a proud melancholy -- much richer and far more glorious than the forced mix of the modern musical movements.

Crossing the Bridge Bavaria Film International Producers: Fatih Akin, Klaus Maeck, Andreas Thiel, Sandra Harzer-Kux, Christian Kux Screenwriter-director: Fatih Akin Line producer: Tina Mersmann Director of photography: Herve Dieu Editor: Andrew Bird Sound: Johannes Grehl: Music and sound: Alexander Hacke Music Consultant: Klaus Maeck Cast: Alexander Hacke, Baba Zula, Orient Expressions, Duman, Replikas, Erkin Koray, Ceza,Sezen Aksu, Orhan Gencebay Running time -- 90 minutes

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