There are a couple countries, which I more or less picked at random, that I try to keep tabs on movie-wise. Turkey is one of them. No disrespect to anywhere else of course, you just can’t see everything (nor should you want to). After a few Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Fatih Akin movies, I felt like I had my foot in the door. Once you’ve gotten it there, it’s pretty easy to keep it planted. This is why I watched Bliss. In retrospect, I would have been better off looking elsewhere.

A woman is locked in what’s essentially a dungeon, playing with the idea of hanging herself. She’s been “tainted” or “stained” or whatever other detergent analogy you want to use, and the powerful townspeople think her death will save face. It’s hard to feel ashamed about something you couldn’t avoid, so she doesn’t kill herself. When a young army commando comes back from the military, he’s assigned to take her to Istanbul and kill her. It’s hard to kill someone who didn’t do anything she could have avoided. So instead, they run and hide with a thoughtfully modern professor on his boat.

It’s a “journey of self-discovery” movie teamed with a “running from the past” thing. In this case the “past” is trying to kill them, but isn’t it, kind of, always? The man, Cemal, decides he’s a lover not a fighter. And Meryem, the girl, decides she’s a fighter not a lover. See how nicely that works out? And they each get a surrogate father in the form of a white-haired, white-bearded, white-shirted old man of the sea.

The movie suffers painfully from a made-for-TV feel in the first thirty minutes. The drama was shoveled over everything like sugar on oatmeal. There are only so many slow zoom-ins a man can handle. It’s the Titanic of shots. The ship is already sinking, why drop the anchor?

A lot of very grave, poignant and modern movies come out of Turkey. Bliss isn’t any of the above. It retreats occasionally into moments of classic drama. Sure, these are welcome surprises, but so is seeing a glacier on an Alaskan cruise.

Bliss plays through the week at The Roxie. Info.

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