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Dry Summer (as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”) – The Criterion Collection #688 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 12, 2013 by  



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Metin Erksan’s award winning “Dry Summer”Turkish film is a fascinating, unnerving film that has received wonderful restoration and is deserving of its inclusion in the Criterion Collection’s “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project” Blu-ray + DVD box set.

Image courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Dry Summer (as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”) – The Criterion Collection #688

RELEASE OF FILM: 1964

DURATION: 90 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, black and white, Monaural, in Turkish with English subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Film Foundation/World Cinema Project/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: December 10, 2013

Directed by Metin Erksan

Written by Necati Cumali, Metin Erksan, Kemal Inci, Ismet Soydan

Produced by Ulvi Dogan

Music by Manos Hatzidakis, Yamaci

Cinematography by Ali Ugur

Edited by Turgut Inangiray

Starring:

Erol Tas as Kocabas Osman

Hülya Koçyigit as Bahar

Ulvi Dogan as Hasan

Hakki Haktan as Veli Sari

DRY SUMMER Winner of the prestigious Golden Bear at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival, Metin Erksan’s wallop of a melodrama concerns the machinations of an unrepentantly selfish tobacco farmer who builds a dam to prevent water from flowing downhill to nourish his neighbors’ crops. Alongside this tale of soul-devouring competition is one of overheated desire, as a love triangle develops between the farmer, his more decent brother, and the beautiful villager the latter takes as his bride, resulting in a Cain and Abel–like struggle. A benchmark of Turkish cinema, this is a visceral, innovatively shot and vibrantly acted depiction of the horrors of greed.

In 1964, Metin Erksan co-wrote and directed the film “Susuz Yaz” (Dry Summer).

Based on the novel by Necati Cumali, the black and white Turkish film would star actor Erol Tas (“The Law of the Border”, “Blood Money”), actress Hülya Koçyigit (“Sev kardesim”, “Iste hayat”) and actor Ulvi Dogan and producer Ulvi Dogan.

The film became a success, was critically acclaimed and would win the Golden Bear at the 14th Berlin International Film Festival and the Biennale Award at the 29th Venice Film Festival.

And now the film will be released by the Criterion Collection as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project” Blu-ray+DVD box set.

A film that showcases sensuality but also greed, “Dry Summer” is set in the country area where a tobacco farmer named Kocabas Osman (portrayed by Erol Tas) who explains to his younger brother Hasan (portrayed by Ulvi Dogan) that he wants to not let the water of the village reach the fellow villagers.  Because the spring is in his land, he will only supply the neighbor farmers with water after their land is irrigated.

Hasan is opposed to this and no one would allow that to happen but because his father is the eldest, he must respect his eldest brother’s interest.

Meanwhile, Hasan and his girlfriend Bahar (portrayed by Hülya Koçyigit) are often making love in the cornfield and the two are literally inseparable.

As Osman meets with the farmers, he explains that because the stream is in his land, the water belongs to him.  The other farmers argue that the water supply has been supplying the village water forever and how water’s the earth’s blood.  But Osman refuses to listen and tells them if they have a problem with him, they can file a dispute.

And this creates a hostile environment between Osman and the other village farmers.

As Hasan and Bahar are married, Osman can’t help having a sexual attraction towards Bahar, often spying on them as they make love through a crack on the wall.

And as Osman continues his strict rule of keeping water away from the villagers, the villagers start to panic as their crops may die but Osman refuses to back down, while Hasan and Bahar often undermind him by letting the water out of the dam and letting the farmers get water, but often getting caught by Osman who puts the dam back in.

Wanting revenge on Osman, one of the village farmers wants to give Osman a warning for fooling with their lives and one of them shoots and kills Osman’s golden lab Karabas.

In revenge for killing Karabas, both Osman and Hasan watch over the water during the night and when they catch farmers trying to steal water, Osman shoots one of them and kills them.

This leads the village of farmers wanting to kill Osman and the authorities end up arresting both men for the death of the farmer.

Osman pleads with his brother that because he is older, he would die in jail and get many years, but because he’s young, he will get out of prison much earlier and he still has a chance of life.  But most importantly, he can watch over the land and take care of it.

Hassan tells him that its his fault that he’s in the current predicament but knows that Osman is older, can take care of the land and that because he is younger, he can survive in prison.  So, Hasan decides to plead guilty for the death of the man.

And as Hasan serves time in prison, Osman not only uses his time to deprive the farmers out of their water, but uses the time to spy on his sister-in-law and tries to make his move on her, knowing that Hasan is not around to stop him.

As time passes by, Hasan wonders why each letter he has sent his wife and his brother are not being answered.  And wonders to himself of what is really happening back home.

VIDEO:

“Dry Summer” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 ) and in black and white. For a film of its age, the film looks good on Blu-ray with contrast levels looking sharp and the picture quality is quite clean considering the films age.  There are no damages, warping or problematic dirt or white specks.

According to the Criterion Collection, “the film was first restored photochemically using the original 35 mm camera negative and the original 17.5 mm sound negative, which were provided by the co-producer Ulvi Dogan, yielding a new restoration interpositive.  Another interpositive, preserved at the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden, Germany, was used for the negative’s missing last reel.  The opening and closing credits, missing from all available sources, were digitally reconstructed.  After the restoration had already premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the interpositive produced by the restoration were transferred in high definition on an ARRISCAN film scanner to create a master”.

AUDIO:

“Dry Summer” is presented in Turkish LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. Dialogue is clear and I didn’t notice any significant hiss, crackle or any major issues with audio during my viewing of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Dry Summer” (as part of “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”) – The Criterion Collection #688″ comes with the following special features:

  • Martin Scorsese – (2:03) Filmmaker Martin Scorsese talks about how Fatih Akin turned him to “Dry Summer” for the World Cinema Project.
  • Metin Erksan and Fatih Akin on Dry Summer – (15:07) Interview with filmmaker Fatih Akin about Metin Erksan’s work plus excerpts from a 2008 interview with Metin Erksan.

EXTRAS:

“Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project – The Criterion Collection #685-690″ comes with a 66-page booklet featuring the following essays: “Recalled to Life” a foreword by Kent Jones, “Mambety and Modernity” by Richard Porton on “Touki Bouki”, “El cine mexicano” by Charles Ramirez on “Redes”, “River of No Return” by Adrian Martin on “A River Called Titas”, “The Law of Nature” by Bilge Ebiri on “Dry Summer”, “Power to the People” by Sally Shafto on “Trances” and “Crossing Borders” by Kyung Hyun Kim on “The Housemaid”. Each Blu-ray and DVD are housed in cases that come with a slipcase.

Of the films featured in “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”, “Dry Summer” is a film that caught me by surprise.

For one, it was a Turkish film that captures one’s greed with efficacy as actor Erol Tas literally embodies the character of Kocabas Osman in the film.

His mannerisms are not just greedy but also perverted and maniacal.  For one, he wants to deprive the villagers from water, at home, he believes that because he’s the eldest brother, he calls the shots.  Then there is the slimy side to him that tries to get close to Hasan’s wife Bahar.  Often starring at her legs and her body and making her do things and naively thinking that it’s for work, when Osman is of course having her do things for his own enjoyment.

And there is that side of him that is creepy as he often looks through a peep hole, trying to look at Bahar trying to undress or just spying on her that is for the most part, creepy.

But that is what the film prides itself on, a character that is selfish, vile and will do anything for himself, while his younger brother Hasan is the opposite.  Caring for the villagers and not wanting his brother to deprive them of water, while he and his wife Bahar are madly in love.  So much as these two lovers can’t wait to have sex and for the most part, with the direction of Metin Erksan, he manages to capture sensuality, sexuality  and greed in his film.

The film manages to capture the anguish of the villagers who are deprived of water which feeds their families and farming is their livelihood and of course, when these things happen, especially without compromise, bad things happen.

And to show how bad things can happen, this leads to two disturbing scenes that involve animal cruelty.

While I personally don’t want to spoil the film for those watching, these two forms of animal cruelty are something I must discuss.

The first revolves around Osman who likes toying with Bahar with his creepy ways and we watch as he cuts a chicken’s head off and while the chicken is flapping and moving without its head, he throws the carcass towards Bahar.

The second was the biggest shock for me.  I have seen many older films with animal cruelty and most typically they are of animals in the wild, horses, rabbits, cattle.  And usually, these scenes are either in the context of a characters meal, the illegality of poaching for skin, fur, ivory or bones.  Or like one of the films such as “Touki Bouki” (which is also included on “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project”), showing a cow getting decapitated at a slaughterhouse.

But with “Dry Summer”, in order to show how people can be cruel with their livelihood is being taken away from them, there is revenge and in this case, village farmers wanting to show Osman not to mess with their lives and so they kill his dog.

We see a golden lab sitting in the shade and a rifle shot shooting the once calm dog which screams in pain before dying and seeing the blood dribble from its body.

I probably could imagine that back in 1964, animals used in the film and animal cruelty for the sake of plot development was unnerving but common practice, as every country has had some form of cinema showing a death of an animal or animal that was hurt and was euthanized.

And for us watching these scenes of animal cruelty, either one puts up with it and looks at it as a form of how cinema was back then in the past, while the other part of you is so sickened or angered by what you have seen, you can’t help but be shocked, saddened and upset with the scene.  So, if you are an animal lover, this is something to be aware about.

Despite the unfortunate scenes of animal cruelty, the film is an intriguing highlight for Turkish cinema.   It was a film made with a small crew, it was a film that was well-acted, well-paced and for the most part, utilizing techniques by Erksan and crew to get the best shot on camera.

The storyline is captivating because you are so emotionally invested in seeing if the selfish Osman will get punished for his actions or will he get away with his misdeeds.

“Dry Summer” looks wonderful on Blu-ray as contrast is great and no signs of damage or any form of major flickering or artifacts.  You also get two special features which include Martin Scorsese and an featurette with Fatih Akin and interview clips with Metin Erksan discussing the film.

Overall, Metin Erksan’s award winning “Dry Summer”Turkish film is a fascinating, unnerving film that has received wonderful restoration and is deserving of its inclusion in the Criterion Collection’s “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project” Blu-ray + DVD box set.

 

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