By STEPHEN HOLDEN Published: October 4, 2011
The opportunity to see two intimidating landmarks — “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and “The Turin Horse” — is reason enough for any filmgoer with more than a passing interest in the evolution of world cinema to be grateful for the platform of the New York Film Festival. Because the chances that either movie will soon be coming to a theater near you, as they say, are next to nil, the best time to see them may be at Alice Tully Hall in the coming week...
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” begins with the haunting image of a three-car caravan, viewed from afar, as it winds its way through the Turkish countryside in the dead of night. The weary travelers include policemen, a prosecutor, a doctor, grave diggers and a confessed murder suspect taking the search party to his victim’s burial site, which he has difficulty finding.
The main characters — a whimsical prosecutor (Taner Birsel), a misanthropic police chief (Yilmaz Erdogan) and the doctor (Muhammet Uzuner) — each occupy a different moral universe, with the doctor, a Chekhovian figure, the story’s moral fulcrum. Flecked with magical realist touches and a sense of the supernatural, the film takes no shortcuts as its characters discharge their laborious and depressing duties. The autopsy of the corpse concludes the film’s sorrowful, unblinking dissection of the human condition. This third film by Mr. Ceylan to be showcased at the festival, following “Distant” in 2002 and “Climates,” in 2006, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” is, in a word, great.