Film Festival: The City as Bane, Nature as Balm By A. O. SCOTT
Published: March 26, 2009
As usual the New Directors/New Films program, a joint presentation of the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center that runs through April 5, is a hotbed of stories: a few of them predictable, some of them elusive, many of them sad. But what might resonate longest in the mind, sampling this international gathering of first and second features, are not narratives but landscapes.
The plot of Ozcan Alper’s “Autumn,”  for example, might be described as a shard of Chekhov translated into Turkish. A former student radical, after serving time as a political prisoner, returns home to his village on the Black Sea coast of northern Turkey. In the nearby town he develops a wary, stricken infatuation with a prostitute from across the border in Georgia, who seems to return his interest with equal wariness. But their romance, if you can call it that, is framed, indeed overwhelmed, by the dour grandeur of the forested mountains, the crashing of the surf and the silence of the snow.
It’s not that the sublimity of the scenery distracts from the psychology of the characters, exactly. But the use of the natural world to bring a sense of unspoken meaning to their actions is the most interesting aspect of “Autumn.” The film’s themes of regret, spent passion and misdirected desire show the influence of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey’s ambassador to the international festival circuit, but its creative energy resides in the way it captures nature.
Directed by: Ozcan Alpher
Cast: Nini Levaja, Serkan Keskin, Gulefer Yenigul
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When he was a student in Instanbul in the 1990s, Yusuf was sent to prison for political activism in the fight for democracy. Ten years later, he is released on the grounds of ill health and goes straight to his village, in the remote heights above the Black Sea, where the only person he finds is his sick mother. His father died during his imprisonment, and his eldest sister married and moved away. Apart from his childhood friend Mikhail, Yusuf is the only young man in the village. Economic problems have driven all the others into urban areas. One evening the two friends go to a bar in the nearest town and meet a Georgian prostitute, Eka, with whom Yusuf falls in love. The young man clings to this woman as his only hope. But for Eka, Yusuf is more like a character in one of the Russian novels she likes to read, a man from another world and another era. Ultimately, their relationship proves to be impossible.
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Country: Germany, Turkey
Genre: Drama, Foreign