Clouds of May

The acclaim for Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf has brought seriously overdue attention to other filmmakers from Iran as well as Iraq and Turkey, though some second-rate filmmakers from this part of the world have gained exposure by mimicking the deceptively simple and straightforward approaches of the two renowned directors. Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan—whose stunning debut feature, Kasaba, showed at the film festival in 1998—deserves whatever attention he gets. Though strongly influenced by Kiarostami, he still manages to bring a mostly original voice to his storytelling. In Clouds of May Muzaffer (Muzaffer Ozdemir), essentially a stand-in for Ceylan, plays a filmmaker living in Istanbul who returns to his hometown to persuade his parents to play themselves in a narrative film he plans to shoot there. The complications that ensue are both dramatic and comic. Muzaffer's father, Emin (M. Emin Ceylan, the director's real-life father), is preoccupied with petitioning officials to prevent their cutting down a picturesque grove of trees that borders his beloved land. After halfheartedly agreeing to be in his son's film, he blows take after take of the simplest monologue while Muzaffer frets about the amount of film they're using. Like Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf, Ceylan keeps the line between what's apparently cinema verite and what's scripted narrative intentionally blurred, which gives the action a fascinating tension. He also shot the film himself, creating some astonishingly poetic, elegiac shots of nature and people that are reminiscent of Terrence Malick or Alexander Sokurov. 120 min.

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