Movie Journal
J. Hoberman on movies and movie-related things

MOVIE JOURNAL: J. Hoberman on movies and movie-related things

Once Upon “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”

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Still of Firat Tanis in “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”/Courtesy NBC Film
Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (newly out on DVD from Cinema Guild) is a truly great movie— a 157-minute police procedural that’s both metaphysical leap into the void and a mournful appreciation of ordinary existence. It’s also a movie with which I have a particular emotional connection.
I first saw Ceylan’s epic journey to the end of the night under less-than-optimal conditions late in the last day of screenings at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and, totally knocked out, felt sure that, in the alternate universe where Lars von Trier did not upend his press conference by babbling about Hitler, “Once Upon a Time” would have reconciled supporters of the competition’s two obvious contenders (“Melancholia” and “Tree of Life”) to win the Palm d’Or.
That didn’t happen, of course, but it’s entirely possible Ceylan’s masterpiece will be last movie I’ll see at Cannes and it’s definitely the last I’ll review for the Village Voice. By the time my notice appeared in print on January 4, 2012, my 33-year stint was history. The Voice lede was corny—“A few days into 2012, and we already have a favorite for the New Year’s best movie”—but, nearly eight months later, it continues to hold up. If I had to name my ten best now, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” would be followed closely by “Turin’s Horse” and “Almayer’s Folly”, and then some combination of “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “Cosmopolis”, “Footnote”, “Kid on a Bike”, “Miss Bala”, “Moonrise Kingdom”, and “This Is Not a Film”.
With the new Paul Thomas Andersen film, “The Master”, waiting in the wings, I’m sure this won’t be my final list but what’s strikes me now is that seven of the ten films had their local premieres at the New York Film Festival, an institution poised to mark its 50th edition that seems more essential than ever. Not having been to Cannes this year and, having only seen a few of the movies on this year’s main slate, I can’t really handicap the selection. Suffice to say that I am anxious to see Christian Petzold’s “Barbara,” looking forward to new films by Cristian Mungiu, Pablo Larrains, and João Pedro Rodrigues, and curious with regards to the latest by Olivier Assayas, Noah Baumbach, Brian De Palma, Abbas Kiarostami and the late Raul Ruiz.
The three NYFF inclusions that I have seen are all set to open later this year. Michael Haneke’s “Amour” is a quintessential example of ordeal cinema and Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors” is an enjoyable riff on film after film. If I have one recommendation, it’s Miguel Gomes’ sublime “Tabu”, set to open in December at Film Forum, and certain to knock one of the ten movies cited movies off my year end list, but not “Once Upon a Time.”
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