Every Cannes Film Festival I’ve attended has been front-loaded and all but over after six or seven days. But this year’s fest defied that pattern. One of my resultant regrets due to leaving after a mere nine days (ten and 1/2 including arrival and departure days) was missing Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, the latest from one of my favorite directors, Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
And I mean especially after reading Eric Kohn‘s Indiewire observation it “plays like Zodiac meets Police, Adjective…an analytical brain teaser rendered in patient and sharply philosophical terms.
“At two and a half hours, the Turkish filmmaker’s sixth movie is also his longest and most advanced narrative undertaking. However, outlining the plot takes substantially less effort than the extensive viewing experience, as Once Upon a Time in Anatolia only involves a handful of characters.
“Ceylan opens with the prolonged late-night hunt for a dead body in the countryside. A parade of cop cars drift through the darkness, carrying a group of straight-faced middle-aged men. These include prosecutor Nusret (Taner Birsel), commissar Naci (Yilmax Erdogan) and Dr. Cemal (Muhammet Uzuner). Additionally, they have a prisoner in tow named Kenan (Firat Tanis), the apparent lead to discovering the corpse.
“Ceylan keeps details scant and instead turns up the atmosphere. His capacity for expressive images, often held in lovely, observational long takes, arguably reached its apex with the well-received Climates. However, his skill remains: Most of the story unfolds in heavy shadows punctuated by bright patches of light. The effect is akin to a noir rendered in oil paints.”
Here’s a concurring if slightly more enthusiastic review by N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis.