Thursday, July 07, 2005
LOVELORN / GONUL YARASI (2005)
Directed by: Yavuz Turgul
Cast: Sener Sen, Metlem Cumbul, Timucin Esen, Guven Kirac, Devin Ozgun. 2 hours 23 mins
Idealist elementary school teacher Nazim (named after the great communist poet Nazim Hikmet) retires and returns home to Istanbul, after a 15 year term in the poor, forgotten Kurdish-Alevite village in Eastern Turkey. Politely ignored by his children who secretly despise him since he chose his ideal over his family long ago, he begins a new (night) life as a taxi driver.
There he meets a fallen single mother who works as a "singer" in a sleazy night club. He takes the mother and her daugther in to protect them from the stalker ex-husband, falls in love with her, and the drama unfolds.
Lovelorn (Gonul Yarasi) A minicab driver gets more than he bargained for when he helps a nightclub singer in this Turkish drama.
A minor Turkish melodrama that's easy on the eye but not the watch, Gonul Yarasi follows ageing minicab driver Nazim (Sener Sen), who picks up more than just another passenger when he befriends nightclub singer Dunya (Meltem Cumbul). His grown-up kids think he's lost his marbles, but Nazim wants to help the beautiful young woman and her daughter escape her abusive ex-husband. Things aren't that simple, though, as Gonul Yarasi tries to live up to its melancholy.
"The woman is a rascal and the man is a lunatic - don't get caught in between," warns Nazim's greying pal Atakan (Sumer Tilmac) an old-time cabbie with plenty of experience on the clock. He's not the only one who's worried: Nazim's kids think the singer's a gold-digging floozy who's after their inheritance, while Dunya's violent ex-hubby (Timucin Esen) just wants to get custody of their traumatised - and now mute - daughter.
"A LIGHTWEIGHT TALE"
Wife beating, rape and child abduction may sound awfully serious, but nothing's ever that terrible - or threatening - in this lightweight tale. Lathering the more threatening moments in soapsuds, G Yarasi works best when playing up the comedy. Cantankerous old Atakan steals the show as a bellowing ex-heavy grown fat and old, leaving gifted Turkish actor Sener Sen to look as unconvinced by the tart-with-a-heart storyline as the rest of us. A confrontation over the family's inheritance and an undeveloped political subtext threaten to turn the movie sour yet, apart from a few mournful nightclub ballads, the lovelorn tears seem insincere.
In Turkish with English subtitles.
Friday January 28, 2005
As discussions continue over its social and political direction, Turkey is indulging in some serious cultural self-promotion in this country - presumably to lay the groundwork for future EU integration. The mammoth Turks exhibition at the Royal Academy in London is the main weapon, but Turkish cinema is doing its bit too.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant proved an art-cinema success last year, but the commercial end of the country's cinema is making a determined effort to cross over here as well - a considerably more difficult undertaking. A few weeks ago saw the UK release of Turkey's biggest-ever homegrown hit GORA - an expensively mounted but unrelentingly witless mishmash of sci-fi cliches - and here's another: an earnest, heartfelt family drama that, despite its two-hours-plus length, manages to remain reasonably watchable.
Lovelorn's central figure is Nazim (Sener Sen), a retired teacher returning to Istanbul after a lifetime of teaching in Kurdish primary schools. He's a member of the fiercely patriotic yet secular liberal generation whose values are increasingly under siege from Turkey's version of yuppiedom - represented here by his resentful children, Mehmet and Piraye. (They want him to sell his property and give them the money, but he can't face kicking out the poor family who rent it from him.)
Bored and lonely, Nazim takes to cab-driving, and finds a new focus for his affections on troubled single mother Dunya: a bar balladeer being stalked by her violent husband.
No prizes for guessing where the story goes, or for sitting through the "you were never there for me" scenes between Nazim and his kids - thereby proving that you don't have to come from Hollywood to whip up a frenzy of saccharine-tainted emotions. But Turgul's straightforward storytelling keeps things moving, and Sen is a quietly engaging performer at the heart of the matter.