On the surface, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, by director/writer Nuri Bilge Ceylan, is a police procedural. A man from a village has been murdered, and the police and a small group of others troop through the countryside, suspect in tow, searching for the buried body. Trouble is, the suspect was drunk at the time he supposedly disposed of the body, and his memory is a bit fuzzy. But the 2011 film’s weight is carried less by the mystery and more by the men and the tales they tell to wile away the time as they travel from place to place. Their camaraderie, obsessions, memories and fears are center screen.
If Turkey’s cinema art-house circuit has a darling these days, it’s Ceylan, whose work includes Climates and Three Monkeys. Languorous and brooding, Anatolia recalls Ingmar Bergman’s existential angst, with a hint of Anton Chekhov’s storytelling skills. It’s a potent combo. The vistas of the rolling Anatolian landscape, rendered by master cinematographer Gökhan Tiryaki, take your breath away. So do the characters’ faces, all of them with the lived-in look of real people, starkly illuminated in carefully composed setups.
1001 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005
Region: Kirby-West U
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia shared the Grand Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. 7 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org. $6 to $7.
Fri., June 22, 7 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 6 p.m.; Sun., June 24, 3 p.m., 2012