Sunday, May 14, 2006

Crossing the Drawbridge

Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul
(Fatih Akin, Germany, 90 mins.)


After the triumph of Head-On, my expectations were probably unrealistically high for Fatih Akin's non-fiction follow-up. Crossing the Bridge isn't bad, and most of the music is quite appealing. I guess I was just expecting something a little more transcendant. Part of the problem is that I never took to narrator/host Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten).

The bearded bassist (below, in ever-present black) worked on the soundtrack for Head-On, which combines Anglo-Australian post-punk (Depeche Mode, the Birthday Party) with traditional Turkish tunes (legendary chanteuse Sezen Aksu), so his involvement makes sense (Akin was born and raised in Germany; the film is in German and Turkish with English subtitles).


If you've seen the DVD featurette, however, you know how much more charismatic Akin is than Hacke. Since Akin wrote, directed, and shot the doc, however, I can only imagine that his plate was already overflowing.

The title refers to the fact that many of the featured artists--Replikas, Ronny James Dio-lookalike Erkin Koray, etc.--view Istanbul as a bridge between the East and the West. Recommended to open-minded music lovers with a high tolerance for unctuous Germans. Werner Herzog fans, that means you!

Harvard Exit: 5/27 at 5pm and 5/30 at 6pm.

Drawing Restraint 9
(Matthew Barney, US/Japan, unrated, 135 mins.)

For Barney aficionados, Drawing Restraint 9 will be required viewing. As its my sixth cinematic encounter with the man, however, I can't predict what new viewers will think (or how it'll do commercially). Since this is the first to receive a proper release, I'll be interested to see what happens.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this effort. While I can't imagine missing a Barney film--there's nothing quite like 'em--I'm not sure I'd call myself a fan. His stuff can be pretty squirm-inducing and sometimes just plain silly (like the fur eyebrows and shell shoes he sports in this film).

Further, though his partner Björk's involvement has been attracting a great deal of attention, be forewarned that, although she composed the soundtrack and appears on screen, her vocals are kept to a minimum and there's none of the acting so brilliantly on display in Dancer in the Dark.

Like previous projects, Drawing Restraint 9 is performance art as film: music (some quite irritating) is abundant, dialogue virtually non-existent. It's mostly a series of set pieces revolving around two "Occidental Guests" (Barney and Björk), who engage in a series of Shinto-related marriage rites on-board a Japanese whaling vessel.

Drawing Restraint 9 is definitely--and defiantly--original, but I could've done without the extended sequence in which our Guests flense their legs off at the hip. Yuck.

Varsity Theater: Not associated with SIFF,
Drawing Restraint 9
opens on Fri., 5/19.

Endnote: While I'm at it, one of my favorites from last year's SIFF,
(Olivier Assayas and Maggie Cheung), opens in Seattle on 6/30.


  1. the bridge frequently glimpsed in the film connects the two halves of which is literally in europe and the other literally in asia.

  2. A local critic who frequents siffblog suggested that I clarify my statement about Istanbul being *viewed* as a bridge between the East and the West. Yes, I meant that metaphorically; many of the featured artists combine indigenous & Anglo-American elements into their work. That said, the title also has a literal meaning. To quote Wikipedia: "Istanbul extends both on the European (Rumelia) and on the Asian (Anatolia) side of the Bosphorus, and is thereby the only metropolis in the world which is on two continents." But you knew that, right? :-)