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‘Mustang’ and Other Weekend Discoveries

Holed up over a long holiday weekend I had the rare luxury of time to catch up with reading and screenings. My primary discovery was the French-Turkish import Mustang, which has made the short-list for this year’s foreign-language Academy Awards. It marks a notable feature debut for director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who also wrote the screenplay with Alice Winocour…but you don’t need to read the credits to intuit that this story is told from a female perspective. It’s not just a matter of empathy with the five young sisters who dominate the story, but the intimacy Ergüven achieves with her (mostly non-professional) actresses. This is one of those rare movies that doesn’t seem to have been scripted or rehearsed: everything about it seems utterly genuine and spontaneous.

Mustang-2A

(Courtesy of Cohen Media)

The setting is a seaside community in Northern Turkey. As the school year ends, the five sisters frolic with some boys in the surf, and a disapproving neighbor tells their grandmother that they have been “pleasuring themselves” in an inappropriate manner. Orphaned for ten years, they have been raised in a relaxed manner, but this outrage serves as a call to action for their stern uncle, who makes them virtual prisoners in their home and cuts them off from the outside world. The grandmother begins instructing them in wifely duties and proceeds to marry them off, one by one. Their ferocious and rebellious spirit finds its center in the youngest girl, Lale, who is determined not to fall victim to her older sisters’ fate.

Mustang is a fiery drama laced with moments of humor, and the ironies of a patriarchal society built on a bedrock of hypocrisy. Yet I wouldn’t pigeonhole this as a feminist tract: it’s good, solid storytelling without a wasted moment.

To learn where and when Mustang is playing near you, click HERE.

Later this week I’ll share some thoughts about less high-falutin’ film fare I’ve been watching, and enjoying, at home.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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