2006, Movie, NR, 97 mins


Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's follow-up to his magnificent DISTANT (2002), a Cannes Film Festival favorite, is an intelligent, handsomely photographed but only intermittently engaging dissection of the doomed relationship between a professor and his much younger lover, an art director for television programs. In the film's most interesting twist, the leads are played by Ceylan and his real-life wife, Ebru Ceylan. Isa and Bahar are spending a seemingly idyllic vacation on the Greek island off the Aegean coast, but it's soon clear that neither is happy. Bahar cries to herself as Isa spends the afternoon photographing ruins for his yet-to-be-completed doctoral thesis, and when they later dine with friends, Bahar is openly hostile both to Isa and their hosts. The next day, as Isa dozes on the beach, she dreams of being literally buried alive by Bahar. For his part, Isa is nagging and not entirely faithful. Isa tells her he no longer wants to continue as lovers, but Bahar coolly informs Isa that she has no interest in him as a friend and leaves for Istanbul after nearly killing them both on his motor scooter. Isa returns home by himself, and in his loneliness takes up with Serap (Nazan Kirilmis), an old flame and the current lover of his friend, Guven (Can Ozbatur). Isa treats Serap badly — he's insulting and their first night together ends with a rough seduction that may not be entirely consensual — and he's upset when she later tells him she heard from an architect that Bahar is now working on a television series in the east. At first Isa is gripped by jealousy at the thought of Bahar with the architect, then by the overwhelming desire to find her and, with the promise that this time he's really changed, salvage what he can of their shattered relationship. From the overheated beaches of the Mediterranean coast and the rainy streets of Istanbul to the frozen eastern hinterlands of Turkey, the stunning cinematography offers hope that a truly beautiful movie can be made on high-definition video. But frankly, Isa and Bahar are such an unlikable pair that it's hard to care much about them; their angst and romantic travails are tedious and too easily written off as the results of their bad behavior. What is interesting is Ceylan's depiction of life among the Turkish upper-middle classes, a world rarely seen in international art-house cinema outside his own films. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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