Three Monkeys: Great Photography, Not Enough Crime

Rooted in the old Confucian proverb ("See no evil..." etc.), this slow-paced Turkish crime tale is constructed more from holes than plot. Writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan intentionally elides the adultery, murder, and imprisonment that tears a working-class family to pieces. He sticks to the same austere formalism of Distant and Climates: men staring glumly at the Bosphorus, women staring glumly at the TV, doors swinging open to reveal empty rooms, curtains dancing to gusts of wind that fail to enliven his characters. A gruff chauffeur (Yavuz Bingöl) agrees to take the rap for the hit-and-run auto accident of his boss, a politician, in exchange for a large cash payment. During his nine-month sentence, his layabout late-teen son (Rifat Sungar) begins pestering his lonely mother (Hatice Aslan) for an advance on the politician's payout, so he can buy a car. She goes to ask, wearing—by Turkish standards—a sexy dress. What was the state of their marriage before her husband's jailing? Three Monkeys glacially reveals a past tragedy that may have banished love from their home. If these gloomy three were unhappy before the money, the money only makes things worse. A typical episode of Law & Order could relate Ceylan's entire story before the first commercial break. He's more interested in compositions, generally static and shot on high- contrast HD video, than criminal procedures. It's a pity, given the ending's carefully wrought karmic wallop, that Ceylan can't shift his gearbox out of park.

 
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