Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mustang [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  Beyazperde (1 1/2 Stars)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing*
Beyazperde listing*

AFK Sinema'da (A.F. Kisakurek) review* (S. Aydemi) review*
Beyazperde (A. Ecrivan) review*
BirGün (A, Daldal) review*
Budzan Sinema (F. Songur) review*
Cumhuriyet (Mehmet Basutçu) review*
FilmLoverss (B. Anadolu) review*
Parallel Sinema (G. Tekes) review* () interview w. director*
Hollywood Reporter (R. Richford) interview w. director

Hollywood Reporter (D. Rooney) review
Slant Magazine (J. Lattimer) review
Variety (J. Weissberg) review

ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

Mustang [2015] [IMDb] []* []* (directed and co-written by Turkish-born / French-raised director Deniz Gamze Ergüven [IMDb] []*[]* along with Alice Winocour [IMDb] []*[]*) is a contemporary "Repunzel-like" [AR] [wikip] (and quite "grim") fairy-tale set at the outskirts of a small Black Sea town in Turkey of today.  The film (in Turkish) was FRANCE'S submission to the 88th (2015-16) Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and was selected as one of this year's five final nominees.

Narrated by 10-12 year-old Lale (whose name means "Tulip" and played wonderfully throughout by Güneş Nezihe Şensoy [IMDb] []*[]*) the youngest of five sisters -- the others being Sonay (played by İlayda Akdoğan [IMDb] []*[]*), Selma (played by Tuğba Sunguroğlu [IMDb] []*[]*), Ece (played by Elit İşcan [IMDb] []*[]*) and Nur (played by Doğa Zeynep Doğuşlu [IMDb] []*[]*) -- growing up orphaned (on account of an auto accident that killed their parents when they were of a young age) and being raised since by their grandmother (played by Nihal Koldaş [IMDb] []*[]*) and uncle Erol (played by Ayberk Pekcan [IMDb] []*[]*) all seemed quite good ("despite...") until one fateful day.

That fateful day begins the movie:  School was being let-out for the summer, and the five sisters found themselves walking "by the sea."  One thing leading to another, soon they're splashing in the water.  Then some boys their age come around, and soon the girls on the shoulders of the boys are playing chicken fights (still clothed, a concession perhaps for the eventual Turkish audience, but certainly wet) in said water / Sea.

The scene more or less obviously evokes a similar (if far more "in your face" / problematic) scene in the recent American film Spring Breakers [2012] and it reminds Viewers, as per the lovely and happy Cindy Lauper song, that girls, ALL GIRLS, even in small-town/provincial Turkey (and by extension in the whole Muslim world...) "Just want to have fun" [YouTube].  And honestly, within reasonable (debatable) limits, what should be wrong with that?

Well ...

This WASN'T FORT LAUDERDALE ... this was "small town / Provincial Turkey," and by the time the five girls, still in their school uniforms, still wet, but drying, fast, in the Turkish summer sun, come home Grandma's waiting, freaked-out, because she's been informed by the head-scarf-wearing / incomprehending / perhaps not even super-Conservative but Conservative-enough "nosy-neighbor grapevine" that her grand-daughters had gone "out of their minds" and were "acting like whores" out on the beach.  And when Uncle comes home, it only gets worse.

No wonder that 10-12 y/o Lale BEGINS THE FILM with the voice-over saying: "Funny how life can change.  One moment it can be just fine and then become Hell in the next..."

Blinded by perceived social pressure (and certainly not having any stomach, at all, to stand-up to it), Grandma and Uncle Erol DECIDE TO LOCK-UP the five girls in their house on a hill (kinda like a Repunzel-like tower) henceforth and (apparently sincerely) "for the girls' own good" seek then to try to marry them off, one after another, of increasingly _decreasing age_ so that the girls "could get married and have a happy life" before they "destroyed themselves" by falling into sin.

It's a parable that shocks ... and INTENTIONALLY SO.

One could complain that this film was made by a Turkish born director "in France" (to needlessly embarrass Turks / Turkey) but (1) the film itself was actually filmed in Turkey [IMDb] [wikip] and (2) ALMOST CERTAINLY the film was INTENDED for "middle-of-the-road" / "on the fence" Turks and Turkey (which is has tried very, very hard FOR DECADES, since the end of WW I in fact, TO BE "MIDDLE OF THE ROAD" -- Muslim by heritage but Western / secular in orientation) asking its Turkish audience: "Is this what you want?" (as there has been a still moderate but to those living there potentially worrisome "Muslim resurgence" there over the last decade or so).

Anyway, the film may provide fodder for Westerners to simply hate Muslims, but the film is more intelligent than that ... and Westerners tending to go in that direction ought to simply remind themselves that this was a film made by a Turkish-born director using a Turkish cast and filmed in Turkey today.  So the film and its intent is more complicated than would seem to a potential bigot's eye.


* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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