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Review: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2011 Turkish drama Once Upon a Time in Anatolia seems like it was made for me. A glacially slow, wistfully poetic film about finding visual beauty in mundanity (or is it the other way around?) that primarily focuses on the formal elements of film, such as camerawork and editing, at the expense of a conventional narrative, it aims to fill big shoes set out by directors long-gone, but whose mark on the film world is undeniable: Tarkovsky and Antonioni to name the two most obvious. High praise, but if you’re expecting a “but” … you’d be wrong. Amazingly, Ceylan overcomes any burden placed on him through comparison to past master-directors here, not by creating something truly unique but by learning from the best (his Sight and Sound Magazine Top 10 films list plays like a who’s who of languid art-house auteurs) and essaying their strengths for a time period sorely lacking in such provocative, deeply felt filmmaking. Continue reading