Monday, June 25, 2012

Village Voice review | Men on the Bridge

Village Voice review
Men on the Bridge
By Mark Holcomb Wednesday, Jun 20 2012

Raw yet respectful and tenderly observed, this feature-film/documentary hybrid from writer-director Asli Özge plops a trio of real-life Istanbulites into a fictionalized account of their lives to engage the maddening flux of present-day Turkey and, by extension, modernity itself. All three protagonists—impoverished street peddler Fikret, unhappily married taxi driver Umut, and Murat, a lonely, low-level traffic cop—work near the Bosphorus Bridge, a looming and perpetually snarled symbol of the abundance promised but rarely delivered by the upward mobility each compulsively pursues. That makes Men on the Bridge sound stuffier than it is: For all of its big ideas, which Özge deploys with remarkable grace, it's the film's small moments that linger, including a pair of excruciating first dates for Murat (subbing for his real-life cop brother, who was unable to appear due to Turkish law) and a heartbreakingly near-comic attempt by Fikret to hold down a busboy job. The running argument between Umut and his grasping wife, Cemile, is downright troubling, genuine or not (the nonprofessional leads are so adept, it's hard to tell) and suggests a tragedy unspecific to any single culture. Like cities and bridges, people who graze but never grasp their private dreams abound; capturing their lives with vision and compassion is a feat.

Men on the Bridge
Directed by Asli Özge
Endorphine Production
Opens June 20, MOMA, Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review | Men on the Bridge

Movie Review
Working-Class Men, Longing for Change in a Restless Land
‘Koprudekiler’ (‘Men on the Bridge’), a Drama Set in Istanbul
Endorphine Production

Fikret Portakal in “Koprudekiler” (“Men on the Bridge”), set in Istanbul. The title characters are linked by the long hours they spend on the Bosporus Bridge.
Published: June 19, 2012

There’s palpable verisimilitude in Asli Ozge’s “Koprudekiler” (“Men on the Bridge”), a powerful portrait of working-class Istanbul that artfully suggests a wellspring of found moments. Quietly, steadily, it gathers a resonance belying its slice-of-life scale.
More About This Movie

Initially intent on a documentary, Ms. Ozge wrote a script influenced by the lives of her cast members (mostly nonactors, all convincing). The uneducated Fikret, a teenager who illegally sells roses in traffic, aspires to a steady job but flails briefly as a busboy. Trapped in a life of Dumpster-diving subsistence, he finds comfort only in hip-hop.

Umut, married to the restless Cemile, drives a cab in sometimes 24-hour stretches. Against a backdrop of Western-style advertisements and television images, the couple struggle, confined by gender roles and a lack of education.

Murat is a nationalistic policeman in search of a spouse online. What links the men are the long hours they spend on the Bosporus Bridge, the grindingly congested suspension bridge linking Europe and Asia.

Murat, an observant Muslim, regards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party as a terrorism organization and wants its members barred from Parliament; his dates with women are fraught with agonizing pauses and his self-centered utterances.

At a Republic Day parade, Fikret and his friends watch military jets overhead and a procession of tanks. “I wish there was a war,” a friend says, more for employment, you suspect, than for patriotism. Cemile seeks only independence for herself.

Everywhere in Istanbul, it seems, there is a longing, a need for change in a country balanced precipitously between East and West, and past and future.


Opens on Wednesday in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Asli Ozge; director of photography, Emre Erkmen; edited by Vessela Martschewski, Aylin Zoi Tinel and Christof Schertenleib; produced by Fabian Massah and Ms. Ozge. At the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, Museum of Modern Art. In Turkish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Fikret Portakal (Fikret), Murat Tokgoz (Murat), Umut Ilker (Umut) and Cemile Ilker (Cemile).

Thursday, June 07, 2012

In memoriam: Seyfi Teoman | Kenji Ishizaka

In memoriam: Seyfi Teoman, film director
Seyfi Teoman, the promising young film director from Turkey, passed away on May 18th at the age of thirty-five. He had been in hospital since April, after being involved in a motorbike accident. Words cannot express my sadness at this sudden tragic news.

Born in 1977, Mr. Teoman studied in Poland, where he attended the prestigious National Film School in Lodz, whose alumni include Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski, and Jerzy Skolimowski. He attracted early attention with his graduation film, the short feature Apartment (2004) and from the outset of his career he established close links with TIFF. His first feature film Summer Book was entered in the Winds of Asia-Middle East Section at TIFF in 2008, while in 2011 his second film Our Great Despair was also screened in this section.

Summer Book is the tender portrayal of the gradual maturing over the period of one summer of a shy young boy living in a provincial city, in the course of his relationships with various people. The film marked the emergence of yet another directorial talent from the burgeoning Turkish film scene, which has been in the ascendancy since the dawn of the twenty-first century. When I heard the director say on a visit to Japan that his greatest influences were Taiwanese new-wave directors such as Hsiao-Hsien Hou and Edward Yang, it dawned on me that the hero Ali was a junior version of Tung-Tung or Yang-Yang.

Although only it was his second directorial film, Our Great Despair was selected for the Berlin International Film Festival Competition. The film portrays the changes that occur when a pretty female university student comes to lodge for free in a house occupied by two dull forty-something men, presenting in detached fashion the chemistry that gradually develops and the changes in the relationships between the three protagonists. With most of the action taking place indoors, the narrative is tranquil and unemotional. The director’s ability to quietly captivate the audience using only a combination of the view of the dining table and the dialogue around it between the protagonists is nothing short of remarkable. To draw again on examples from Taiwan, I felt that the sensibilities exhibited by this film clearly bore a direct relation to A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), and that somehow Mr. Teoman was turning into a director more akin to Yang than to Hou. Indeed, I recall a conversation with Yoshihiko Yatabe, the director of the TIFF Competition section and a self-confessed fan of Mr. Teoman, in which he remarked that Mr. Teoman would likely become a maestro of the “lovable loser” genre.

He had embarked last year on a second career as a producer and with eyes agleam had excitedly told me that he was full of ideas for new projects. His untimely death thus comes as a terrible shock. I am proud, however, to have been involved in introducing Summer Book and Our Great Despair to Japan.

I pray that his soul may rest in peace.

Kenji Ishizaka
Programming Director
Winds of Asia-Middle East Section
Tokyo International Film Festival