While local specialty theaters bring in many foreign films, the work of some of the biggest contemporary international stars goes unseen. Even festival superstar Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love played for a mere week three years ago at the Varsity Theater. Hou Hsiao-Hsien? Tsai Ming-liang? Guy Maddin? The Triangle is still waiting for the news.
However, a youngish Turk named Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one rising director that can be struck off the not-seen list, thanks to Duke's Screen/Society. Ceylan, with only three features to his name, has elicited comparisons to the likes of Bresson and Kiarostami. His first film, Kasaba (The Small Town), was released to great critical acclaim in 1998, and it's an impressionist painting of a movie, showing members of a Turkish community in their environment through the four seasons. Based on a story by his sister, Kasaba was made with non-professional actors (including other members of the Ceylan clan) and was often shot with a crew of two (sound was dubbed in later).
Photographed in silvery, luminous black and white, we're treated to the town as a simpler microcosm of the rituals of death and rebirth that haunt humans wherever they are. There's a feeling of fin de siecle naturalism here, the casual thuggishness of rusticity that belies the beauty of the countryside. It's the kind of clear-eyed, unsentimental gaze on life as it's lived that was found in the work of Chekhov, Maupassant and later on, early Hemingway.
As part of its Turkish film series, Duke's Screen/Society will show all three of Ceylan's films, starting Monday, Oct. 18 with Kasaba at 8 p.m. in Griffith Theater at the Bryan Center on Duke's West Campus. www.duke.edu/web/film/screensociety/Arada.html.