I just came across Stephen Holden’s review of Abdullah Oguz’s Bliss (2007) in the New York Times today. Holden writes: “[…] this consistently gripping, visually intoxicating film stands as a landmark of contemporary Turkish cinema.” It’s based on an acclaimed novel by Zülfü Livaneli about honor killings in contemporary Turkey. Livaneli is also a composer and wrote the film’s score. The film is distributed by First Run Features; with any luck, it will play in theatrically in Atlanta at some point.
In general, there seem to be quite a few interesting films coming out of Turkey in recent years. Probably the best known figure internationally is Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who has won numerous festival awards for his art-house films Distant (2002), Climates (2006) and Three Monkeys (2008). He’s a major practitioner of the long shot/long take aesthetic associated with directors such as Andrei Tarkovsky and Chantal Akerman. His treatment of emotional isolation (or “alienation,” if you will) is often compared to Michelangelo Antonioni, though in Distant, the one film of his that I’ve seen, there’s also a great deal of humor in the film’s observation of everyday life. (To be fair, Antonioni also had a sense of humor.) Another new Turkish director, Özer Kiziltan, explores the conflict between religious faith and modernity in Takva (2006), which received U.S. distribution on DVD last year. A third figure worth looking at is the Turkish-born Italian director Ferzan Özpetek, known for films such Steam: the Turkish Bath and Facing Windows; I like his sympathetic, open-minded treatment of the complications of human sexuality.