There isn’t much of a story to Cannes darling Distant, which observes the petty differences between a passive-aggressive photographer and the cousin he opens his apartment to. The entire film is stitched together from a collection of long shots that stress the expansive emotional distance between the odd couple. This deliberate strategy is borderline strenuous but works for the most part because it’s also completely uncomplicated. Via this pretense-free aesthetic, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan invites the audience to take an unadulterated peek at the little dramas that incite his main character’s obsessive-compulsiveness. If there’s not a whole lot that happens in the film, that’s more or less the point. Once an aspiring filmmaker with delusions of Tarkovsky, Mahmut (Muzaffer Özdemir) mostly spends his time moping and watching television (the film’s funniest bit observes the artist trying to bore his cousin to bed so he can continue watching porn). And since Yusuf (Mehmet Emin Toprak) can’t find a job at the docks, he busies himself by stalking a local woman. Because Mahmut’s large book collection beautifully implies his introspective spirit, it’s a shame Ceylan falls for more obvious metaphors (here, a mouse and a shooting toy soldier). Ceylan forces us to glean as much as possible about these men’s lives using the expansiveness of the film’s frame—that and the actual tidbits of information he actually does afford the audience via one-way telephone conversations, answering machine messages, and Mahmut’s quickie get-together with his ex-wife. It’s a calculated, albeit fascinating way to tell a story, and Distant gets (and stays) under the skin.
New Yorker Films has been around for a while, and with the money they've made from hits like Trembling Before G-d, you'd think it was time they started using dual layer discs for all their films. The problems on this Distant DVD should be familiar to anyone who owns releases by the studio's video label: Though blacks are solid and the print is more or less clean, the overall image is on the soft side and edge enhancement is a problem. Luckily, the audio is strong: The film isn't a loud one, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 track shows its muscle whenever director Nuri Bilge Ceylan lingers on the boats pulling into the film's ports or the noisy little contraption that hangs outside of Mahmut's apartment.
Ceylan's short film Cocoon, behind-the-scenes footage that runs an impressive 42 minutes, an interview with Ceylan, the film's theatrical trailer, a photo gallery, and trailers for New Yorker Video titles My Architect, Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion, To Be and to Have, and Promises.
Fans of Ceylan's film will appreciate the worthwhile features New Yorker Video has included on this DVD edition.