Friday 7 July 2017

Turkish Film Festival - Supercinephile Barrie Pattison delves into Ferzan Ozpetek's CRIMSON ISTANBUL

We know Ferzan Ozpetek from his Italian films like Saturno contro (2007), La
finestra di fronte/Facing Window
 (2003) and Le fate ignoranti/The Ignorant Fairies (2001) which date from the days when SBS was still bringing the world back home.  His new Turkish production Istanbul Kirmizisi/Crimson Istanbul is a strikingly handsome ‘scope production that pushes the city's tourist attractions and fields elements from the director’s earlier work - a gay theme, Serra Yilmaz in support.

Kicking off with a great scenic aerial of the city, we get balding, middle-aged author Halit Ergenç deposited at the red painted Bosphorous-side home of fellow writer Nejat Isler who has brought him in to work on a project we never do get to know all that much about. This proves disorienting for Ergenç because he meets characters he thinks he recognises from Isler’s published autobiography only to find them not as represented.

Then Isler disappears in a development not too far away from L’Aventurra, and Ergenç, in the company of elegant Tuba Büyüküstün and the missing man’s gay lover Mehmet Günsür, is involved in a police inquiry where the lady cop tells him not to leave town. There are a couple of trips to the morgue and a meeting with Büyüküstün’s unexpected husband who puts him straight on who was there first. 

Little by little Ergenç finds himself taking over Isler’s life and his habits, smoking and drinking again (“zero willpower”), using the man’s computer, living in his room in the house that the family is abandoning and greeted at a funeral as Isler by the mother who has never met him.Ergenç even counterfeits a message which he reads to Büyüküstün over their cell ‘phones as he closes in. We learn Ergenç’s back story but can only guess why he was selected, what became of Isler or the significance of swimming the Bosphorous.

Enigma, that stock in trade of the art movie, is foremost and that’s not necessarily a good thing but the production does suck in viewers with scenes like the family meal, where the relatives surprise the newcomer, Günsür’s  river front confrontation, or the society party with the plunge neck singer who they manage to feature in all the publicity - another arresting aerial shot pulls away from the high rise window there.

I like the Italian films better but this one does manage to hold the serious attention it’s designed to attract. It's encouraging to find that Ozpetek is still at it.

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