Sunday, April 29, 2012

Screening Log: ChinaTurkey Edition

One note before today’s screening log. I’ve never considered attending Ebertfest, a five day festival of overlooked films and panels put together by legendary film critic Roger Ebert, but I really wish I had. One thing I would recommend are the panels streaming online, especially one featuring film critics from around the world, and a debate on the future of streaming and on-demand media. Both are highly worth your time. Onto the screening log!

-The Gang’s All Here, 1943. Directed by Busbey Berekly. 35mm projection at Film Forum.
-Irma Vep, 1996. Directed by Olivier Assyayass. Online Steaming via Netflix Instant.
-Dry Summer, 1964. Directed by Metin Erksan. 35mm projection at Film Society of Lincoln Summer.
-Hazal, 1981. Directed by Ali Ozgenturk. 35mm projection at Film Society of Lincoln Center. 

            The last shot of Dry Summer follows a dead body flowing down a steam. It seems like the inevitable conclusion to the narrative, as this body flows from its high and mighty position of power and into the farmland of the peasants below. It’s a powerful shot, and it’s the only time we can finally breathe in this intense and stifling Turkish classic.

            Although stylistically they have very little in common, I could not stop thinking about Chinatown as I watch Metin Erksan’s Dry Summer. Both deal with the coveting of water and women. But Chinatown is from the perspective of Jake Gittes, an outsider trying to right the wrong. The main character in Erksan’s film is the crazed man trying to take it all. Shot it crisp black and white, the film follows Hasan and Osman, brothers who own fields that need constant water during this very tough summer, as the title suggests. But others need it too, and it is their fields that also have the main spring. Osman decided to build a dam to prevent water from leaving their fields, and because he is the older brother, Hasan can’t do anything about it.

            Tension between these Cain and Abel-style brothers continually increases, especially after Hasan takes a beautiful wife whom Osman wishes to covet (the film uses a couple of shots that clearly recall the famous voyeurism shot in Psycho). Osman continually battles those who wish to tear down his dam, as well as his own family.

Using high contrast lighting and plenty of close-ups, Erksan not only lets us feel the heat of the summer but the intensity of this crazed man who wishes to covet all the lays before his eyes. Osman is despicable, but he’s continually fascinating in how unphased he is by his lack of character and moral decency. As the narrative continues to spiral, the actor Erol Taş lights up with the type of crazed passion few actors can pull off, so much that we can never take our eyes off of Osman. According to some research, the film works as somewhat of a metaphor and indictment against Turkey’s dam policy’s with Syira during the late 1960s, but simply from a character and visceral level, Dry Summer is an unabashedly intense film that will shock you quite thoroughly.

If you have a chance to make it to Film Society at Lincoln Center on Tuesday afternoon, the film plays again at 2:15pm.

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