The penultimate day of the festival and I took on a willing assistant in my quest to entirely fill my head with movies. Having booked three films in nice time for scattered refreshment, it was with some disquiet that I received the news from Jo that film number two of my day was in fact 196 minutes long. And in Turkish. Leaving me and my new charge fully five minutes to get to the final screening. If she hadn't fled for the hills by then......
Movie one of Day 11 got off to a ropey start when I got confused over start times, necessitating a rush from lunch. Fortunately we made it just as The President was beginning so we were just THOSE people I normally silently berate for getting in the way of the screen just as I'm getting comfortable. Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's feature follows the rapidly descending fortunes of the titular President as he is ousted from power and chased across the countryside with his grandson in tow.
We begin the movie with the President demonstrating to his grandson the power of being able to turn the city's lights on and off with just a phone call. When the lights refuse to respond to the child's command to come back on, gun fire is heard and the presidential motorcade is soon leaving the palace and running for the airport. Determined that the trouble can be dealt with, the president packs his family off on a private jet but his grandson is equally determined to stay. En route back to the palace things take a turn for the revolutionary and soon the dictator and the child are reduced to threatening village barbers for hair cuts and stealing clothes from mining peasants.
The President manages to pull off the trick of being both amusing (in dealing with the trappings and absurdities of a dictatorship) and horrific in terms. Makhmalbaf doesn't shirk from the day to day horror of revolution, leading to more than one occasion when you'll either be turning away or grimacing through your fingers. A scene where the President returns to a prostitute he has used in the past is particularly grim in its detail. This is all balanced by the old man's attempts to shield his coddled grandson from the unfolding horror as they make their way across the country in search of the sea escape the President still believes is possible. Victims pile up on both sides of the revolution as nobody is spared when the lid finally comes off the repressive regime....
And so, to The Long Film. And many thanks to Sight & Sound's Nick James for introducing it as such. Both minimising our time between films and ramping up the Fear of the Long Film in the audience. I needn't have worried. The film started at 5pm, the first and only time I looked at my watch was 8.10pm. Winter Sleep is enthralling in a way that you don't necessarily notice. Put it this way, I'd put money on you blinking as if you'd been in a trance if somebody walked across the screen in front of you whilst you watched this.
Filmed in one of the most stunningly, beautifully bleak places I've seen in a movie, there are only really a handful of characters here and truth be told, they don't really get up to much. Haluk Bilginer is Aydin, a once famous actor, now retired to 'run' his parent's hotel in the mountains of Anatolia. He delegates the entire of this to his right hand man Hidayet (Ayberk Pekcan) so he can devote his time to writing a column about whatever in a locally distributed newspaper. Staying with him in the hotel is his irascible divorcee of a sister who delights in baiting him whilst he writes and his much younger wife Nihal (Melisa Sozen) whose comfortable existence in parallel to her husband has led her to question her to the quiet desperation of boredom.
In a movie where the only action of note is a small child throwing a rock at a passing car, there is no denying that you'll need to be comfortable with subtitles and long periods of dialogue to get the best out of this Palm d'Or winner. But if you have the patience, there is plenty of reward here. Nuri Bilge Ceylan's movie is akin to sitting down with a few glasses of wine with friends you haven't seen for a long time. The dialogue pours over you and you have no choice but to become entrapped by it. As the snow closes in and the wind whistles through the wonderful scenery, you'll find yourself completely swept up in this isolated world. Winter Sleep isn't an easy watch but with universally impressive performances, immense depth and warmth despite the climes and the sometimes hostile conversations, it is one that is wholeheartedly worth the effort.
And so to our penultimate movie of the festival, Kill Me Three Times - a shaggy Australian tale of double dealing, loan sharking, corrupt rozzers and suave hitmen. I did try to note down the various ways in which the main characters are connected but it's such a joyously convoluted story that to be honest, it's not worth trying to decipher it. Suffice to say that Simon Pegg is a hitman employed to do away with a cheating wife, a job he is convinced has been done for him by a scheming dentist. Of course, it doesn't quite work out that easily.
As soon as the score kicks off for Kriv Stenders' movie, you pretty much know what you're going to get. Which will likely lead to a sinking feeling. Clearly influenced by such classics as Smokin' Aces, this attempts to be an entertaining, breezy caper. What we get is sadly short of laughs and with far too many pointless slow motion deaths. Pegg, and to be fair, the rest of the cast, seem up for it and it's always a joy to see Bryan Brown (here as a snarky corrupt copper) but the movie is neither funny enough to get away with being a comedy or thrilling enough to be a thriller.
Which isn't to say I didn't quite enjoy Kill Me Three Times, it is entertaining in a kind of inconsequential way but with a wittier script and in either more subtle or more maniac hands, this would have been a winner. As it is, Pegg power may get it a cinema release. Just.