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  Asia-Pacific
Minimalism at Cannes
Cannes Film Festival 2006: Minimalism, Too
By Gautaman Bhaskaran
South Asia Editor
Turkish Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan in "Distant"

The 59th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, in contrast to the big, wide screen fare, had a couple of minimalist movies.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Climates" (Turkey) may have a thin plot, but it is a deeply moving story of a university professor and a television serial art director, whose break-up in a sunny resort contrasts with their final
disappointment in a freezing snow-covered town. Director Ceylan is Isa, an inattentive man, whose much younger girlfriend Bahar (wife Ebru Ceylan in real life), uses all the feminie vile to get him back.

The film's end is totally unexpected, and while Ceylan must be patted for presenting a rich canvas of human relationship, some may find fault with his attempt to enliven his work through a long, rough sex scene which he plays out with a lover. She is one obstacle in Isa's affair with Bahar.

To me, "Climates" had a touch of the late Aravindan movies. He made a marvellous use of visuals and emotions, relying far less on the verbal aspect of story telling.

Admittedly, a certain dimensional meat is lacking in the film's leading characters. Sometimes, they appear like cardboard cutouts, flat and dull.
But that has been Ceylan's style, and his earlier three movies — "The Small Town" , "Clouds of May" and "Lointain" – have also had frames of bleak landscape and uni-faceted personalities.

Finnish helmer, Aki Kaurismaki's third film of his "Loser Trilogy" , "Lights in the Dusk" (after "Drifting Clouds" and "The Man withot a Past") is as bare and bereft of emotion as his earlier works. For those who are not Kaurismaki fans, 'Lights in the Dusk' could be almost painful to watch.

The Finnish director's latest hero is a simple security guard who finds it difficult to form relationships. Ridiculed and hated by his colleagues, actor Koistinen plays a part that some may be tempted to compare with Chaplin's Little Tramp. Like the Tramp, the Kaurismaki protagonist offers no resistance when he is dumped by a sex siren, who uses him to rob a shop.
Living in a depressing flat, he ultimately finds a soul mate in a mobile grill-stand lady.

Kaurismaki confines his camera to very select locations, has very few extras and weaves his story through rudimentary plot lines. (Is that the 1930s style?) Shorn of expression, his characters, including the female fatale, seem wooden with not even a semblance of duplicity to fatten their
characterisations.

But this is Kaurismaki style, which to me, reflects in some vague way the life in Finland, where the harsh, cold climate is synonymous with loneliness and depression.



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Gautaman Bhaskaran is a veteran film critic and writer who has covered Cannes and other major international festivals, like Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Melbourne, and Fukuoka over the past two decades. He has been to Cannes alone for 15 years. He has worked in two of India’s leading English newspapers, The Hindu and The Statesman, and is now completing an authorized biography of India’s auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Penguin International will publish the book, whose research was funded by Ford Foundation.

 

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