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Three Monkeys

Only the most well-rounded film-goers checking out their options this weekend will even consider choosing between the new Hollywood blockbusters and Three Monkeys, by the much-lauded Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Movies in foreign languages aren’t always “art” films, but in Ceylan’s case there’s no denying that he is working for an audience weaned on Antonioni, Bresson, and Bergman. Compared to his quasi-autobiographical previous films released in the US—Distant and Climates, which played at the Market Arcade in early 2007—Three Monkeys at least on the surface sounds like a more mainstream story. After a rich businessman accidentally kills a woman in an auto accident, he gets his driver to take the rap in exchange for lump sum payable after a brief prison sentence. The man agrees (having apparently never seen Midnight Express), but while he is imprisoned his wife and teenaged son have their own involvements with the rich man. Although the denouement involves some twists that would be at home in a 1940s film noir, Ceylan isn’t terribly interested in storytelling, and most of what occurs the viewer has to infer. He’s more involved with the degree to which faces can mirror the soul, and his film is filled with close-ups of his characters as they weather various stresses. (In interviews he has said that he had to fight with his cast to get the performances he wanted, and in some cases resorted to filming them surreptitiously during what they thought were rehearsals.) Dialogue is less important than the film’s artful compositions, Ceylan’s post-production tweaking of his digital photography, and most of all his carefully layered soundtrack, which means that audiences seeing this in a theater will have an advantage over more viewing on a screening DVD. On the other hand, I was able to re-watch the parts for subtle story clues that I missed, something you might have to see this film twice to do.

m. faust

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Watch the trailer for Three Monkeys

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