If Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Distant is Andrei Tarkovsky directing a sham-spiritual Odd Couple, then his high-definition follow-up Climates is Neil LaBute directing an apolitical rendering of Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Reverse Shot critic Nick Pinkerton is onto something when he observes in his review of Distant that “[the film is] just the sterile flipside of those old, haywire Turk cheapies…where it’s nothing unusual for a Machiavellian Spiderman to tangle with Mexican über-wrestler Santo.” He goes on to give cautious praise to Distant and it’s easy to understand why. Ceylan makes some of the best-looking bad movies around, all off-kilter compositions and vivid landscape photography, populated by characters who aimlessly wander the magical land of ennui in search of the next interminably pregnant conversational pause. You’re half-convinced by the end of Distant that something meaningful has occurred, but it’s all film-fest friendly smoke and mirrors. Ceylan is too much a secular prisoner of his influences, a fact he cops to in Distant‘s best scene where the sell-out photographer Mahmut (Muzaffer Özdemir) toggles his television between Tarkovsky’s Stalker and lesbian porn.
But let’s give credit where it’s due: By casting himself in the lead role of Climates, it’s clear that Ceylan is more than willing to lay down his head on the proverbial chopping block. There’s a huff n’ puff sex scene herein that must be seen to be believed, all revolving around Ceylan’s self-centered professor character Isa, his stiletto-heel clad mistress Serap (Nazan Kesal), and a stray nut (of the completely edible type) evasively rolling along the floor. Would that such conceptual bravery balanced out Ceylan’s When in Doubt…Exhale! style of acting or the film-school pretentiousness of his visual/aural interplay (Roaring wind! Falling snow! Glistening tears! And, do my ears deceive me, is that the rusted windmill creak from Once Upon a Time in the West?). Yet in spite of all its critic-bait window dressing, Climates remains consistently watchable, if for no other reason than its dogged self-seriousness, which helps it attain an—I’m guessing—unintentionally high level of camp hilarity. “Are you bored?” Isa asks his girlfriend Bahar (Ebru Ceylan) at the film’s start. I can only speak for myself, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from this Euro-art train wreck.