Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

A three vehicle convoy lights its way through the dark settling on a serpentine road snaking through the hills of rural turkey. Police chief Naci (Yilmaz Erdogan) has assured Doctor Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner) and Prosecutor Nusret (Taner Birsel) that his prime suspect, Kenan (Firat Tanis), will identify the site where the victim of a brutal homicide lies, but Kenan was drunk that night and the group of men will continue their travels into the next day "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia."

Laura's Review: A+

Cowriter (with wife Ebru and Ercan Kesal)/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan ("Distant," "Three Monkeys") uses a matter of life and death to look at the mundane, human nature, and the mystical effect of women on men in his sixth feature film, a masterpiece. Shot on the Sony F35, this is one of the most painterly of digitally shot films, enhanced with a sound design which isolates moments in nature in lieu of a musical score. The film follows the basic outline of a police procedural, but Ceylan isn't really interested in the crime (twice his camera leads us along, thinking we will find the body, only to make another point entirely). In the lead car, Naci talks to the doctor about a local yogurt with the texture of cheese. His driver, Arab Ali (Ahmet Mümtaz Taylan), knows it, his mother used to make it and, he says, it smells. Their talk is interrupted by the theme from Love Story - it is Naci's ringtone and his wife has called to harangue him about a prescription he forgot to fill for their child. All are quiet as Naci seeks to placate her. Food. Medicine. Nurture. Woman. The three cars keep stopping at various points where Naci admits defeat and promises the next stop will yield results. The talk, like that opening conversation, is often humorous, just as often banal, but as the evening progresses and the Prosecutor and Doctor kill time, it becomes poetic. The talk, of course, turns to women. The prosecutor intrigues the doctor with the tale of the most beautiful woman he ever saw, who predicted her own death as she awaited the birth of her child. ' After hours on the road, it is decided that the group must overnight (followed by the slapstick indecision as to what route to take). The local mayor, Mukhtar (Ercan Kesal, "Three Monkeys"), offers food and lodging, but immediately adds his weight to the visiting political hierarchy by maneuvering for funds to build a morgue. When the lights go out, he calls for his daughter, Cemile (Cansu Demirci), to bring lanterns, and each man, in turn, is awed by her beauty when she turns her gaze on him. In this humble place, these men have found the utterly unexpected. Kenan cries and Naci calls for the prosecutor with a potential new twist in the investigation, involving another beautiful woman. Turkey's submission for the 2012 Foreign Language Film Oscar tied with "The Kid with a Bike" for the 2011 Cannes Grand Jury prize, but inexplicably failed to garner a nomination from the Academy in a category it should have won. This mesmerizing film is like an object d'art which one keeps turning in one's hands, always finding something new to consider. The main characters keep shuffling their standing, the prosecutor most obviously keeping score as he tells the doctor to ignore Naci, that he's 'just a handful of bees as my mother used to say.' Of another officer, who offers cream biscuits and precise information, 'The butcher thinks about the meat, the lamb, the knife.' And yet Nusret is the man who unveils perhaps the most devastating truth about himself (Birsel is a standout in a great ensemble). Kenan turns out to be an almost Christ-like figure, a man accepting the sin of another who is stoned by the murdered man's boy who may be his son. Cinematography by Gökhan Tiryaki ("Climates," "Three Monkeys"), with colors and shapes like a Grant Wood landscape at dusk, is stunning. Sounds of distant thunder, cicadas and the wind through the trees bring us back to earth, as do the homey sayings studded throughout, rich with wisdom. Ceylan shifts back and forth among boredom, melancholic beauty and humor with ease, his characters each offering different aspects of the human condition. They come around all too rarely these days, but Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" is a masterpiece.

Robin's Review: B

The Guy (Glen Hassard) is a talented Dublin street musician who supplements his meager income playing guitar and singing by working in a vacuum cleaner repair shop. He keeps crossing paths with the Girl (Marketa Irglova), a street flower seller who is impressed with his obvious musical ability. Together, they make beautiful music in “Once.” Writer/director John Carney cloaks a nicely unfolding romance in the guise of a musical. The Guy sings his songs on the streets during the day to pay the bills. At night, though, when no one gives him any attention, he sings the songs that he wrote for himself. The Girl appreciates his songster skills and, being a capable pianist herself, is drawn to the street artist. The result is a plethora of original tunes that are, in a word, excellent. The nice chemistry between the two principals is the glue that holds the music together. Once” combines romance and music with skill, as the Guy and Girl grow closer and they work together to make their musical collaboration commercially viable. The story follows the couple through the trials and tribulation, occasionally with the help of others, as they strive to get his songs professionally recorded. The kindness of others is believable because of the sound artistic quality of the Guy’s songs. Hassard and Irglova, newcomers to feature film, show both natural acting skills and terrific musical ability. “Once” is a two-hander that utilizes this new talent effectively and entertainingly. It is aimed at those who love music and musicals but the love story that develops has nice appeal, too.