Catchups 4: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, Margin Call, This Is Not A Film

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is a film I really regret not catching on the big screen. It features some stunning cinematography and I can certainly understand why it achieved its plaudits for its ponderous two and a half hour police procedural through the Turkish countryside. It contains a very simple premise and some gorgeous shots which are interspersed with absorbing conversations, touching on a number of complicated issues including guilt and how children pay for the sins of adults. It’s extremely atmospheric and has grown on me with time to reflect. ★ ★ ★ ★

Margin Call is a cold and calculated film which goes a considerable way towards marking our times. Portraying the financial crisis from the perspective of a Goldman Sachs-like institution about to crash and reap havoc across the world, its first two thirds carefully dissect the chain of command with the realisation that no one really has control. At its best moments, it feels like a Greek myth, with the merciless gods pissing down on those below (and indeed gods pissing down upon gods). Its ensemble cast (Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci) fill out every inch of their suits, achieving a wonderful sense of their desperation through some really subtle and well measured performances. Even if it peters out somewhat in the final third, it’s an extremely accomplished and riveting drama which never stops to feel convincing of a particular time and place. ★ ★ ★ ★

It’s very hard to review This Is Not A Film because it makes such important viewing. Knowing little, I was initially a little perturbed by the pretentious title but now that I’ve seen the thing, I’m embarrassed by my own cynicism. Its weight resonates immensely. It’s a documentary (apparently smuggled out of Iran and into France buried inside a cake) by Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi, banned from film-making for 20 years, pending trial and anticipating 6 years in prison simply for making a film which the government disagreed with. At this point he is living under what is essentially house arrest. Panahi and his friend Mojtaba Mirtahmasb document a mundane day in the life of Panahi using a digital video camera and an iPhone and that’s about it. But it’s so much more – it’s about a tortured artist, freedom of speech, an impulsive desire to create. A large part of the film involves Panahi explaining a screenplay he had hoped to turn into a film. He realises that explaining the dialogue and stage directions cannot possibly create the art he imagines. It’s incredibly profound and stripped down to the bare bones of film-making, relying partially on an iPhone. As the New Year fireworks cascade down around Panahi’s flat, he finds himself impulsively interviewing a friendly, bemused student working as a rubbish collector and never could something so mundane seem so powerful. Panahi is a constantly relaxed, natural but obviously tortured presence. This is surely one of the most harrowing and inspiring pieces of art in recent years and needs to be seen. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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