Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Midweek Matinee: Winter Sleep



Prior to Winter Sleep, when was the last time I watched a Turkish film? Wait, let me check the calendar to make sure I have the right date ... ah, here it is: Never.

You'd think a movie that won the Palme D'Or in 2014 would create a little buzz, but if it did, I missed it. We lost a lot when we lost most of the small movie houses which showed nothing but foreign films.

Not that Winter Sleep is hard to find -- it streams on Netflix, for one.

When I heard this was a Turkish movie, and given my vast experience of never seeing one, I assumed the major theme would involve war, politics, and/or religion. Because I've never read anything about Turkish people except as some collective entity who apparently are involved in nothing but war, politics, and/or religion.

Winter Sleep is a movie about individuals and their personal struggles: an upper middle-class, aging man-- a landlord, the owner of an hotel, and a writer of columns in a newspaper nobody reads. His true claim to fame is that once he was an actor of limited fame, and shared the screen with Omar Sharif. He tells any hotel guest willing to listen, "I remember the day Omar told me..."

The other characters merely exist in his sphere. For him, they're his misbehaving satellites, often tracking questionable orbits. The much younger wife, once star-struck, now disenchanted and straining to break her husband's gravitation pull. The property manager, the bankrupt angry tenant, the one friend, and the sister who serves as a bitter Greek chorus to most of the characters.

I suppose I'm not doing a good job selling this movie, am I? It might not help if I tell you it's over three hours long, with acres of dialogue, and initially quite reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman -- the chatty years.

But I broke this movie up into three-day chunks. Which worked perfectly fine. Because you're not going to miss a rising exposition that ends with a building exploding, a wife who is beaten, a man who is shot. The most violent act involves two inanimate objects. And you won't even be surprised when that happens. You're supposed to see it coming. Like a Chekhov story, you're asked to balance two things in your mind at one time: the dialogue, and the inevitable.

In the end, I realized that Winter Sleep doesn't owe a debt to Chekhov or Bergman, but shares their history. Most of all, it reminds me of Joyce's The Dead. A story where you watch the ego inflate and deflate, time and time again. And how we protect the ego, assuming we'll die should it deflate. So we patch it, pump it up with argument and self-deception, aggrandizement. Until finally, maybe one day, we just let it go. Watch all the hot air escape; accept the pain, for pain it is. And pick through the ruins, for what remains.

And realize comfort, perhaps even redemption, should we find our self.

22 comments:

  1. I don't have Netflix so I won't see it soon, but what a pleasure it is to read what you wrote about it.

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  2. I love your description, but my dearly beloved won't even think of watching foreign films. He has a hard time following the movie and the subtitles. And foreign accents are making him crazy these days. It's my loss.

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  3. Well...I'm not going to break any records streaming this one...mainly because I still haven't figured out streaming...
    Sounds a bit over my rather grounded head but I agree with Petrea!!! I enjoyed your analysis!!!

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  4. I know subtitles bother some people, but it's far better than dubbing (do they even dub anymore? Don't think so). Anyway, tuck the title away somewhere in your mind. Who knows -- sometime when you Marjie are on a business trip, or Petrea on tour, or Chieftess actually in Turkey, you might give it a try.

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  5. I think the only thing that gets dubbed anymore is anime, and possibly other cartoons. With non-human pictures, you can rewrite your script to match the movements of the character's mouth and the actors and engineers can dub it exactly to picture. Not so easy with real people, though.

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  6. Laughed out loud at Bergman, the chatty years.

    Do get Netflix . Thanks for the recommendation .

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  7. Oh good, Jean. Something I didn't mention, it's beautifully shot.

    Petrea, interesting. Rewriting the script to match the mouth sounds pretty labor intensive.

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  8. I don't know about dubbing anything else, but dubbing anime from Japanese to English is labor intensive. First you translate the Japanese script to English. Second, because many Japanese jokes and expressions don't translate, you rewrite it to make sense in English. Then you rewrite it to fit the mouths. At least that's what our translators/producers/directors did. There's so much more anime dubbing now than when I did it in the mid-90's, I don't know if producers are taking the time.

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  9. Now you got me thinking about seeing this 'winter sleep'. Don't think I've ever seen a Turkish film. I've eaten a lot of Turkish Taffy in my younger days. Especially loved the strawberry flavor. Does that count????

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  10. The Turkish film Yol won the Palme d'Or in 1982. Beautiful movie that was shown to great acclaim all over LA, but seems to have disappeared. I saw it at least three times. It was one of my favorites from the early 80s. I, too, miss those art houses. I spent a good part of my youth in those joints.

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  11. Nice piece, as usual. I often put the subtitles on when watching movies in English because sometimes phrases are hard to catch.

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  12. If ever I was going to struggle through a movie like this, you kind of sort of make me want to do so, KB. "Like a Chekhov story, you're asked to balance two things in your mind at one time: the dialogue, and the inevitable." I love the way you write.

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  13. Karin, thanks for let me know about Winter Sleep. I really must to see it. I Google and I saw that the locations was in Cappadocia, an amazing landscape.
    I also love the way you write!

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  14. Your last paragraph intrigues me. So after my Dexter marathon, it's up next.

    As many folks that I know who hate the Turks, they do have an interesting history. Maybe you can find a biography on Suleiman the Magnificent.

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  15. Maybe you'll like it, and maybe you won't. This is not political; neither is the movie.

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  16. I have been thinking about your recommendation and plan to give this film a viewing. I have been on the fence because I'm a do-something-at-the-same-time movie watcher, which means subtitles require a high level of commitment on my part. Silly me - I've never thought to break up such a long film into three parts. I'm in.

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  17. Oh good. Anyone who watches this film, please circle back and tell me what you think.

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  18. Thank you, Linc. What a nice message to wake up to.

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  19. I am so late catching up on all your lovely posts. But I had to comment here: Thank you for the Turkish film recommendation! I went there in July and now I have a big crush on this unique country. Looking forward to the film, I think I'll break it up into a couple of days like you.

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  20. You went to Turkey? Oh, I feel a twinge of jealousy coming on. Must check your blog for photos.

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