May 16, 2008
Cannes. Three Monkeys.
"An ostensibly routine noir-style psychological thriller vaults into the realms of high art in competition contender Three Monkeys" writes Jonathan Romney in Screen Daily.
"Cannes has been kind to Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan in the past, with Uzak and Climates establishing his auteur credentials here in 2003 and 2006. His new film represents a bold departure from his past style: it's best described as introspective melodrama, yet both visually and tonally, it's still quintessential Ceylan."
"Seeing, hearing and speaking no evil comes all too easily to the tortured trio in Three Monkeys, a powerfully bleak family drama that leaves its characters' offenses largely offscreen but lingers with agonizing, drawn-out deliberation on the consequences," writes Justin Chang in Variety. "Bad faith, simmering resentment, adultery and murder all figure into Nuri Bilge Ceylan's darkly burnished fifth feature, giving it a stronger narrative undertow than his previous Cannes competition entries, Distant and Climates."
"I was hooked from the get-go - gripped, fascinated," writes Jeffrey Wells. "I was in a fairly excited state because I knew - I absolutely knew - I was seeing the first major film of the festival.... It's a very dark and austere film that unfolds at a purposeful but meditative (which absolutely doesn't mean "slow") pace, taking its time and saying to the audience, 'Don't worry, this is going somewhere... we're not jerking around so pay attention to the steps.'"
Updates: "On the surface, the best film here so far for me - Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys - is only very superficially about incarceration, in that the story is quickly kick-started when a local politician facing elections persuades his driver to take the rap for him after the former knocks over a man with his car; in return he'll pay his employee's salary to his teenage son, and hand over a large lump sum when he emerges from prison after six months or so," writes Geoff Andrew for Time Out. "But if we actually see only a couple of prison-set scenes, when the son visits his father, that doesn't mean that imprisonment isn't a central, almost Dostoievskian metaphor for what happens to the driver, his wife and son, and the the politician.... It's been bought for the UK, so when it turns up, see it - and marvel!"
"[I]t's largely commonplace, drear, and claustrophobic," writes Glenn Kenny. "One finds oneself frustrated by the stories Ceylan chooses not to tell - the would-be politician who sets the film's plot into motion seems a more interesting character than anybody in the family whose lives he effects - and by his too-insistent emphases, e.g., a bit involving an idiosyncratic ring tone that's funny and wrenching the first time, still effective the second, and stale the third. The movie's not bad, but it's not terribly special, either."
"[L]eft me cold," writes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "It's a familial melodrama of infidelity and incrimination that James M Cain could have made hay with but that gets slowed down to a portentous Antonioni crawl by the director."