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.

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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.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The Motion Picture Academy, at considerable expense and with great efficiency, runs all the nominated pictures at its own theater, showing each picture twice, once in the afternoon, once in the evening. A nominated picture is one in connection with which any kind of work is nominated for an award, not necessarily acting, directing, or writing; it may be a purely technical matter such as set-dressing or sound work. This running of pictures has the object of permitting the voters to look at films which they may happen to have missed or to have partly forgotten. It is an attempt to make them realize that pictures released early in the year, and since overlaid with several thicknesses of battered celluloid, are still in the running and that consideration of only those released a short time before the end of the year is not quite just.

“The effort is largely a waste. The people with votes don’t go to these showings. They send their relatives, friends, or servants. They have had enough of looking at pictures, and the voices of destiny are by no means inaudible in the Hollywood air. They have a brassy tone, but they are more than distinct.”All this is good democracy of a sort. We elect Congressmen and Presidents in much the same way, so why not actors, cameramen, writers, and all rest of the people who have to do with the making of pictures? If we permit noise, ballyhoo, and theater to influence us in the selection of the people who are to run the country, why should we object to the same methods in the selection of meritorious achievements in the film business? If we can huckster a President into the White House, why cannot we huckster the agonized Miss Joan Crawford or the hard and beautiful Miss Olivia de Havilland into possession of one of those golden statuettes which express the motion picture industry’s frantic desire to kiss itself on the back of its neck? The only answer I can think of is that the motion picture is an art. I say this with a very small voice. It is an inconsiderable statement and has a hard time not sounding a little ludicrous. Nevertheless it is a fact, not in the least diminished by the further facts that its ethos is so far pretty low and that its techniques are dominated by some pretty awful people.

“If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be?”
~ Raymond Chandler, “Oscar Night In Hollywood,” 1948

“Film festivals, for those who don’t know, are not exactly the glitzy red carpet affairs you see on TV. Those do happen, but they’re a tiny part of the festival. The main part of any film festival are the thousands of people with festival passes hanging on lanyards beneath their anoraks, carrying brochures for movies you have never and will never hear of, desperately scrabbling to sell whatever movie it is to buyers from all over the world. Every hotel bar, every cafe, every restaurant is filled to the brim with these people, talking loudly about non-existent deals. The Brits are the worst because most of the British film industry, with a few honourable exceptions, are scam artists and chancers who move around from company to company failing to get anything good made and trying to cast Danny Dyer in anything that moves. I’m seeing guys here who I first met twenty years ago and who are still wearing the same clothes, doing the same job (albeit for a different company) and spinning the same line of bullshit about how THIS movie has Al Pacino or Meryl Streep or George Clooney attached and, whilst that last one didn’t work out, THIS ONE is going to be HUGE. As the day goes on, they start drinking and it all gets ugly and, well, that’s why I’m the guy walking through the Tiergarten with a camera taking pictures of frozen lakes and pretending this isn’t happening.

“Berlin is cool, though and I’ve been lucky to be doing meetings with some people who want to actually get things done. We’ll see what comes of it.”
~ Julian Simpson