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By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Countdown To Cannes: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

The sixth in a series of snapshots outlining the nineteen directors in the 67th Palme d’Or Competition.

Background: Turkish; born in Istanbul, Turkey, 1959.

Known for / style: Kasaba (Small Town, 1997), Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys, 2008), Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, 2011); extended takes with little-to-no camera movement; sprawling runtimes; scenes of deafening silence; wide or distanced shots of landscapes; domestic dramas cast with non-actors or family members; accomplished photography and screenwriting in addition to directing.

winter_sleep_3

Notable accolades: Throughout his two decades or so on the festival circuit, Ceylan (approximately pronounced “dzjay-lan”) has nearly won it all. At Cannes, he’s taken home the Grand Jury Prize twice (Uzak, 2002; Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, 2011) and the Festival’s prestigious Best Director award in 2008 (Three Monkeys). At Berlin, he won the Caligari Film Award in 2008 for Small Town. He’s also a seven-time FIPRESCI Award winner from multiple festivals, a veritable hero at his local Istanbul International Film Festival, and a two-time winner of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Achievement in Direction prize (Anatolia and Three Monkeys).

Previous Cannes appearances: Since his Competition debut in 2002 (Uzak), Ceylan has reserved his world premieres for Cannes, with Climates, Three Monkeys and Anatolia following in the same pattern. His 1995 short film Koza played in the short film Competition, and he is a two-time Jury veteran (Competition member, 2009; Cinéfondation member, 2004). In other words, 2014 will mark his fifth shot at a feature-length Palme d’Or.

Film he’s bringing to Cannes: Kış Uykusu or Winter Sleep, which may or may not refer to the film’s intimidating 196-minute run-time. “Winter Sleep is about humans,” Ceylan said in an interview with Sony’s technical side. “It’s a drama set in the middle of Turkey, in Anatolia. We captured many kinds of images on location, shooting in Cappadocia over wintertime. There are many kinds of landscapes, human-scapes and portraits, sometimes in snow, sometimes in cloudy weather and more seldomly sunny images as well.” The newly-released trailer shows Turkish actor Haluk Bilginer struggling with domestic married life.

winter_sleep Could it win the Palme? Ceylan is essentially three for four in his Cannes career. Given that the auteur’s style is tailor-made for the Palme’s proclivities, you could bet that Ceylan may be a candidate for  serious awards consideration. A full-out win at this point seems almost too obvious, so we’ll have to wait (and wait) to see. That said, do not be surprised if 2014 marks Turkey’s second Palme d’Or win, after Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören’s golden The Way (1982).

Why you should care:  Ceylan has helped place Turkish cinema on the international radar. It might prove difficult to get excited about a drama that’s longer than a Lord of the Rings entry, but Ceylan’s gorgeous location photography, careful consideration of pacing, and his intriguing human story should more than justify its running time. Ceylan’s masterful style is his own.

Follow Jake Howell on Twitter: @Jake_Howell
Previous Entries:
Tommy Lee Jones
Atom Egoyan
Bennett Miller
Xavier Dolan
David Cronenberg

2 Responses to “Countdown To Cannes: Nuri Bilge Ceylan”

  1. Jeremy Fassler says:

    Ugh. Ceylan is a horrible, pretentious director, whose movies are beyond boring. When will Cannes finally see that the emperor has no clothes? I saw his film, Three Monkeys, knowing nothing about it, and thought it was one of the worst films I’d ever seen – the plot outline was interesting, but all I remember is that nothing that happened in the film was related to that. He’s dreadful.

  2. Ray Pride says:

    Oh, boo.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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