May 16, 2008

Cannes. Three Monkeys.

"An ostensibly routine noir-style psychological thriller vaults into the realms of high art in competition contender Three Monkeys [site]," writes Jonathan Romney in Screen Daily.

Three Monkeys

"Cannes has been kind to Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan in the past, with Uzak and Climates establishing his auteur credentials here in 2003 and 2006. His new film represents a bold departure from his past style: it's best described as introspective melodrama, yet both visually and tonally, it's still quintessential Ceylan."

"Seeing, hearing and speaking no evil comes all too easily to the tortured trio in Three Monkeys, a powerfully bleak family drama that leaves its characters' offenses largely offscreen but lingers with agonizing, drawn-out deliberation on the consequences," writes Justin Chang in Variety. "Bad faith, simmering resentment, adultery and murder all figure into Nuri Bilge Ceylan's darkly burnished fifth feature, giving it a stronger narrative undertow than his previous Cannes competition entries, Distant and Climates."

"I was hooked from the get-go - gripped, fascinated," writes Jeffrey Wells. "I was in a fairly excited state because I knew - I absolutely knew - I was seeing the first major film of the festival.... It's a very dark and austere film that unfolds at a purposeful but meditative (which absolutely doesn't mean "slow") pace, taking its time and saying to the audience, 'Don't worry, this is going somewhere... we're not jerking around so pay attention to the steps.'"


Updates: "On the surface, the best film here so far for me - Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys - is only very superficially about incarceration, in that the story is quickly kick-started when a local politician facing elections persuades his driver to take the rap for him after the former knocks over a man with his car; in return he'll pay his employee's salary to his teenage son, and hand over a large lump sum when he emerges from prison after six months or so," writes Geoff Andrew for Time Out. "But if we actually see only a couple of prison-set scenes, when the son visits his father, that doesn't mean that imprisonment isn't a central, almost Dostoievskian metaphor for what happens to the driver, his wife and son, and the the politician.... It's been bought for the UK, so when it turns up, see it - and marvel!"

"[I]t's largely commonplace, drear, and claustrophobic," writes Glenn Kenny. "One finds oneself frustrated by the stories Ceylan chooses not to tell - the would-be politician who sets the film's plot into motion seems a more interesting character than anybody in the family whose lives he effects - and by his too-insistent emphases, e.g., a bit involving an idiosyncratic ring tone that's funny and wrenching the first time, still effective the second, and stale the third. The movie's not bad, but it's not terribly special, either."

"[L]eft me cold," writes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "It's a familial melodrama of imfidelity and incrimination that James M Cain could have made hay with but that gets slowed down to a portentous Antonioni crawl by the director."

Update, 5/17: "Nothing whatsoever seems to happen, yet little clues are constantly being planted that will continue to build throughout the film and lead to several grand, if understated, emotional payoffs," writes Peter Brunette in the Hollywood Reporter. "No one working in cinema today can suggest an interior psychological state, solely through the camera's external observation of an unmoving character, as well as Ceylan can."

Updates, 5/18: "Ceylan vaults into new territory here: Three Monkeys is a noir-flavoured psychological thriller, which starts off close to Georges Simenon, slides more into James M Cain territory, and ends up vaulting into the Dostoyevsky league," writes Jonathan Romney in the Independent. "It is very much a Ceylan film - there are all the elegant, brooding cityscapes we expect of him - and the elliptical intrigue is typical of his sombre, slow-burning style. But here we find Ceylan having the sort of fun with narrative twists you might expect from the Coen brothers, and the moral resonances leave you feeling you've grappled with not just a teasing enigma but a substantial tragedy too."

"Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips has written perceptively about the influence of Chekhov in Ceylan's work - and that influence is especially evident here," notes Patrick Z McGavin for Stop Smiling.

"The film's hi-definition video images are blanched and grainy, lending a vaguely surreal air to the film's hot summer coastal setting along with the secrets, lies and barely repressed recent tragedies that hover over the characters' psyches," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "That phantom past reemerges in two spectacular moments in the film; jarring and disturbing, the scenes create an unnerving effect that lasts longer than just about anything else yet seen on screen here."

"Ceylan seems to hate all his characters," grumbles the Observer's Jason Solomons.

Updates, 5/21: "An impeccably crafted, ambitiously schematic, distressingly empty melodrama, Three Monkeys strains to make a statement about this corrupt world, but lacks the rueful subtleties of Ceylan's earlier features," writes J Hoberman in the Voice.

"Among the most beautiful recent films I've seen, Three Monkeys is my favorite of the fest so far," writes Matt Noller at the House Next Door.

"This is a lazy study of a dysfunctional family, and we've seen enough of those," writes Mary Corliss for Time. "But it's still a provocative premise that could be made into a compelling thriller. Perhaps by the Coens."

Update, 5/25: Kim Voynar at Cinematical: "The pacing of the film is glacially slow at times - what some might call meditative but others, less kindly, might consider indulgent - but perhaps that's fitting for a film that's driven less by action and active decisions than by the hope that consequences will somehow just fade away."

Update, 5/27: "Celebrated Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan was awarded Best Director in Cannes on Sunday," notes Pelin Turgut in Time. " Perhaps now Turks will finally go see his movies.... It is true that Ceylan's films are never easy going, but in a country of 70 million, 20,000 viewers seems, well, a little pathetic. Are Turks a nation of cultural philistines? Critics bemoaning the dearth of interest in cultural fare (book sales are shrinking along with art-house film audiences) point to a brutal 1980 military coup as the start of this malaise."

Coverage of the coverage: Cannes 08.

Last year: Cannes @ 60. And Cannes 06.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 16, 2008 12:48 AM


Looks like a very beautiful film. I can't wait to watch it. A Masterpeace.

M.Fercane U.S.A.

Posted by: Michael Fercane at May 28, 2008 5:18 AM

Please do not write on subjects that you do not have any knowledge.

It seems to me that you are writing such things only but only out of your anger and your pathetic racism against Turks.

Ceylan's new movie 3 monkeys has won best director award at cannes but IT IS NOT SHOWING ON THEATHERS YET IN TURKEY.


Trust me millions will go to see this movie including me.

Posted by: halil altintop at May 30, 2008 1:55 AM

Halil, I assume your comments are addressed to Time contributor Pelin Turgut. Just wanted to be clear on that.

Posted by: David Hudson at May 30, 2008 2:10 AM