So my chum was learning to speak Turkish and I promised to send him a Turkish movie to practice on. I couldn’t find the old ones I was going to unload but there in the second hand shop stock was a copy of something called Üçüncü Sayfa/The Third Page which proved to be a piece from early in established director Zeki Demirkubuz’ career.
It appears that Turkish auteurs come one at a time. The only occasion I’ve had real access to Turkish movies was when Yilmaz Güney became flavor of the month on the festival circuit, which curiously coincided with the period of the distribution of Turkish VHSs here, with belly dancers and secret agents blowing up cars and little Müjde Ar in her scanties speaking up for woman’s rights on SBS.
Since the eighties the curtain closed again until Nuri Bilge Ceylan emerged in the twenty first century.
That made Üçüncü Sayfaa considerable surprise - an intense, innovative, small scale interior melo which his admirers say shows the director’s professed debt to Fyodor Dostoevsky as a version of “Crime & Punishment” though it ends up being yet another “Postman Always Rings Twice” rip off.
In a yellow-walled room, sheepish bit player actor Ruhi Sari is beaten, accused by gangster boss Emrah Elçiboga of stealing $50, with the threat of execution and male rape if he doesn’t come good. Back in the lead’s small flat decorated with Turkish movie posters, landlord Cengiz Sezici is equally aggressive about turning him out on the streets if he doesn’t come up with his month’s back rent (forget the electricity). His agent is unwilling to offer an advance.
Our hero can take no more and shoots the protesting landlord a couple of times. Next day the cops pile all the tenants into a mini-van and drive them off to the station for interrogation. “The man with the dog sees everything!” (what happens to him?).
When he gets back, Sari is so exhausted that he slumps in his doorway and Basak Köklükaya, the woman with two small children from across the corridor, takes him in. A fellow lost soul she is alone while her migrant worker husband is away. A couple of gun-toting toughs show up to collect the debt and she pays them off at the current conversion rate, receiving change in Turkish Lira.
Meanwhile Sari gets to be a continuing character in a soap (people ask him about the stars when they spot him in it) where the script girl runs ahead of the moving camera shouting the actors’ lines which they repeat - presumably to be re-voiced. There is a montage of auditions including the lead’s - “Can you ride a horse? Will you appear naked?”
Doomed passion, another murder and betrayal in the best film noir tradition follow.
What looks like a total lack of style (the pistol dropped on the table in close up is a shock departure among the undramatic images) proves to be misleading. The shared corridor with two the peep hole doors becomes a powerful motif and the music free track develops with the sound of TV programs including the ones with the hero as background. Even more striking is Köklükaya’s monologue beginning with her lips moving only to go still as her voice continues and we then cut to her speaking in the same position to repeat the device. Her removing her head scarf prefiguring the ending is disturbingly attention getting. The children are however just set decoration.
The cast often figure again in Zeki Demirkubuz‘ extensive later films trailered on the disk. Several of these are on YouTube. The quality is better there but, unlike the DVDs, they have no subtitles. Seen in isolation, this one is so good it leaves us wondering about the other products from the Turkish Yesilçam ("Green Pine") Hollywood.
... and no I have no idea what the three pages are.