Plus "Crazy Horse."
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, to my mind the most exciting director on the international scene, is handicapped by the fact that he works in Turkey, and most Americans consider themselves adventurous when they see a film from France. His sixth feature, "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," won the Grand Prize in Cannes last year with its singular blend of crime investigation, Coenesque gallows humor and existential mystery. It is epic in its aims and achievements yet modest in its resources: some superb actors, stunning landscapes and a resonant, understated script.
The first 90 minutes unfold in velvety nighttime darkness punctuated by flashlights and headlights cutting across undulating rural roads, underscoring the obscure nature of the case at hand. There has been a murder, apparently. The confessed culprit can't (or won't) recall where the body is buried. Ceylan plays audacious tricks with our assumptions about the structure of crime stories, and the enigmatic finale toys with our expectation that mysteries should end with closure.
As the futile, bumbling effort to unearth the truth proceeds (with surprises every step of the way) the individual characters emerge vividly. The grumpy police chief burrowing into his work to escape troubles at home, the love-haunted doctor, the prosecutor with marital difficulties, all discover awkward truths about themselves as themes of guilt and adultery rise to the surface. And there's the funny, flinch-inducing business about the best way to fit a dead body in a car trunk and the splattery accidents that can accompany an autopsy.
Veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman has recorded the secret lives of asylums, high schools, hospitals, boxing gyms and dance companies. In "Crazy Horse," he examines the work of running a rigorously choreographed, meticulously art-directed, upscale nude cabaret. The Crazy Horse revue of ballet-lithe dancers has been a Paris institution for 50 years. Wiseman's film shows that no detail is left to chance, as perfectionist stage director Philippe Decouflé wrings his hands over minutiae of lighting, costume and performance. His uniquely Gallic ambition is to create a new show that will "impress the intellectuals." The revue and the film are chic, antiseptic and curiously asexual.