★★ / ★★★★
Written, directed and starring Nuri Bildge Ceylan, “Iklimer or “Climates,” was about a couple (Ceylan and his real-life wife Ebru Ceylan) who decided to break up during a holiday because they felt as though they were drifting apart despite the suggested happy years they’ve spent together. The film was divided into three parts: the break-up, the lead character’s wandering as a single man and his reconnection with a former flame (Nazan Kirilmis) and a reunion with the love of his life. This Turkish film was obviously not intended for general audiences because there were many minutes where nothing was said and pretty much the whole film had this languid tone. However, I thought that the tone fitted this picture because it reflected the characters: no one knew what they wanted but they just yearned to move on because dealing with the main problem was too painful. I also thought the silences were just right because it really highlighted the awkward moments in the conversations that eventually led up to disagreements and arguments. However, the major problem I had with this film was it didn’t spend enough time trying to understand the female lead. That very first scene got me hooked because one minute she was happy but when she decided to sit down and really thought about the situation she was in, she wanted to break down. I wanted to know the reasons why she couldn’t handle it anymore and why she stayed in the relationship for so long. Being “in love” was too simple an explanation and there were implications that were never really in love–they simply enjoyed each other’s company, like being around one’s best friend or a very nice roommate. Instead, we saw the story from the man’s perspective, which I thought wasn’t very interesting. (Sorry, guys.) The way he met up with his other lover was particuarly amusing to me, especially that aggressive sex scene. I wasn’t exactly sure if it was supposed to be funny but I laughed and I thought it was a good change of tone considering all the sadness that was happening on screen. What this film needed was more focus regarding that special connection between the former couple. With such a slow-moving film that felt longer than its running time of about a hundred minutes, focusing on the problem at hand could’ve done wonders instead of wearing out the audiences’ patience with silly sidequests. I saw moments of greatness in “Climates” when it came to the inspiring images regarding the various seasons. It’s definitely not for everyone but I somewhat enjoyed the slow burn (in parts) of this Turkish film.
Beau Travail (1999)
★ / ★★★★
This movie about French soldiers stationed in Djibouti left a big question mark in my head. At first I thought Claire Denis, the director, was trying to establish the characters via showing us the ennui of military life: from ironing clothes, making the perfect creases to the every day physical and mental training the soldiers had to endure. But half-way through the picture, nothing much changed and I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated with it. I wanted to know more about what made the characters tick. Instead, by the end of the picture, I couldn’t tell them apart (especially since they all have the same haircuts but that’s beside the point), I didn’t know anything about their motivations, and I didn’t know anything about their lives outside of the military. In a nutshell, it felt very one-dimensional. That feeling of detachment made me not care and watching the film was like pulling teeth. I’ve read some summaries from other reviews and they somehow found a story that the film tried to tell. Upon reading those reviews, I really felt like I watched a completely different movie because none of those descriptions matched what I saw (which was pretty much half-naked guys runnning around all over the desert). Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy movies that are stripped down with minimal dialogue but they have to have sort of emotional resonance. I didn’t find that in this picture despite my best efforts to look underneath the surface. The only scene that I genuinely enjoyed was the last when Denis Lavant broke into a dance. It felt like a huge sigh of relief because the rest of the movie felt so controlled, cold and tough. If they had more scenes like that, this train-wreck would’ve been saved. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
★★★★ / ★★★★
I can’t say that this is one of my favorite films from Stanley Kubrick, but I have to admit that this picture is extremely well-crafted. I was impressed that Kubrick shot each scene with only natural light such as the sun during the day and candles during the night. His use of certain cameras that tend to highlight the magnificient backgrounds is nothing short of brilliant. Like “Full Metal Jacket,” the topic of duality is explored in a meaningful way. The first part of the film focuses on Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal): how he left his family and joined the British Army. The second part of the film is about Barry Lyndon (still played by O’Neal) and his attempt to attain the respect he can never achieve. Redmond Barry and Barry Lyndon, though the same person, are completely different from each other. The former is naive and honorable, but the latter is hungry for wealth and power. On the outside, it’s about the rise and fall of man. But I think it’s so much more than that. “Barry Lyndon” is a classic example of a man so willing to change himself by forgetting his past as he tries to gather wealth and power (by marrying Marisa Berenson who plays Lady Lyndon), all the while not caring about anyone who gets hurt by his actions. At the same time, he’s not viewed as a completely evil person because of the events that shaped him; he still has the capability to love even though he does not show it in an apparent manner. I can see why most people would initially dismiss this film because it is very slow-moving. However, if one learns to embrace its slow nature, he or she will be rewarded by its epic historical story. I wasn’t surprised when I found out that this film won two Oscars–Best Cinematography amd Best Costume Design–because I’ve never seen anything like it. Each prop is gorgeous, especially the clothes and the paintings on the walls. Many times in the movie, especially during the second half, I felt like I was visiting a museum, not just because of the aesthetics, but also due to the echoes created by the characters’ feet and the whispers in conversations. Kubrick really was a perfectionist and it shows because each of his work is always exemplary. This is a difficult film to swallow and one of the reasons is its three-hour running time. However, it’s a fascinating character study. Barry Lyndon doesn’t realize that by forgetting where he comes from, he loses a significant portion of himself and therefore cannot grow to be a better person. He finds happiness in material things but never realizes that all he had to do was look inside himself. And that is only one of the many tragedies that this breathtaking film has to offer.