It’s been ten months since I saw Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Three Monkeys at the Cannes Film Festival. To me this beautifully shot mood piece about brutal class exploitation in Turkey was a major visitation. Some felt the same way; others weren’t as enthused. It was finally acquired by New Yorker Films only to be returned to the limbo straits when NYF went bust. Then Zeitgeist stepped in. It’s now opening at Manhattan’s Cinema Village on 5.1.09 and L.A.’s Nuart on 5.27.
That’s something, at least. At the same time this doesn’t feel right. I’ve seen films at the Nuart and the Cinema Village, and the vibe is nothing special. You pay to get in, you buy the popcorn and you sit down, and every so often the floor feels sticky and greasy. And the screen isn’t that big, the sound isn’t especially strong or precise and the print is sometimes a bit worn down. (But not always. It depends.) But what a difference from seeing it in Cannes where the projection and sound levels are top-of-the-line, and you’re often carried along by a communal absorption vibe generated by the sharpest film journalists on the planet. It’s the only way to go.
“The moral undercurrent in Three Monkeys — a quietly devastating Turkish family drama about guilt, adultery and lots of Biblical thunderclaps — is in every frame,” I wrote last May. “It’s about people doing wrong things, one leading to another in a terrible chain, and trying to face or at least deal with the consequences but more often trying to lie and deny their way out of them. Good luck with that.
“I was hooked from the get-go — gripped, fascinated. I was in a fairly excited state because I knew — I absolutely knew — I was seeing the first major film of the festival. Three Monkeys is about focus and clarity in every sense of those terms, but it was mainly, for me, about stunning performances — minimalist acting that never pushes and begins and ends in the eyes who are quietly hurting every step of the way.”
Hatice Aslan, Yavuz Bingol in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys.