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“Climates,” “Isolation”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates,” Zeitgeist Films, 2007]

I love ultra-minimalist international art films, the kind heralded at global film festivals and most famously exemplified by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Tsai Ming-liang, Carlos Reygadas, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Šarūnas Bartas, Bruno Dumont, Nuri Bilge Ceylan — you know the drill, the long static shots, the non-communicative acting, the oblique narratives, the attention to passing time and natural phenomena and what exactly we don’t know about what’s going on. But I sometimes grow suspicious; it seems so easy, doesn’t it? Do we respect these movies merely for what they aren’t? Personally, I’d make a pulpitarian’s full-throated case for the filmmakers listed above, but when watching films by pretenders to this bandwagon (for instance, Vimukthi Jayasundara’s “The Forsaken Land,” from Sri Lanka, and Portugese ennui-specialist Pedro Costa’s “Colossal Youth”), I grow to sympathize with the ticket-buying hoi polloi who generally demand a little clarity and propulsion along with their cinematographic visual blitz.

On the other hand, of course, we all hope in our hearts that if we plopped our middlebrow parents or neighbors or hockey-fan pals down in front of the right art film (someone, please, muster a better meta-genre title than this one), they’d see the truthfulness and wisdom and hidden beauty as we do. Ceylan’s newest film, “Climates,” is a good choice for the experiment — it couldn’t be clearer in its essaying the ordinary collapse of a long-term relationship, and yet the film communicates its emotional weather to us in ways that shock us with its secrets. A couple — an older but worldly architecture professor and his younger designer mate, played by Ceylan and his real wife, Ebru Ceylan — are vacationing in Greece, photographing the ruins. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but then we discover it’s already happening: the camera unceremoniously lingers, and lingers, on a closeup of the woman’s face as she watches her man, and we see her forget her life, and then remember it, and then mourn it, crying.

From there, sorrow comes to town. The relationship dissolves the way they do in reality, and in Raymond Carver stories — with a derisive chuckle, with an unanswered question, with a secret nobody knows who knows. Because the characters behave like real people, we participate emotionally in their scenes as if we were present, exploring on our own what may’ve happened in the past and what’s going on behind their eyes now. Ceylan’s camera favors observant angles, but it’s mostly a character study of the man, a charming, sophisticated academic lost in his own life. Shot, rapturously, on digital video, “Climates” limns palpable human territory, but it’s a great film because of Ceylan’s subtle and restrained eloquence — eloquence? Can you name a recent American film that could be lauded for its visual eloquence? Rather than a one-man Turkish new wave, Ceylan seems to be the Turkish representative in a global trend, inspired by Antonioni and guided by Kiarostami and Hou, and meant not just for local audiences but for the Earthly citizens of Cannes-istan. It’s a demographic that could grow — sit your “Knocked-Up”-focused friends down to Ceylan’s portrait of discontent, and see if they don’t catch their breaths.

Or show them the newest, or rather, only Irish cow farm horror movie, Billy O’Brien’s minimalist-in-its-own-way film “Isolation,” which stands as some kind of crafty demonstration that with effective filmmaking and a headful of uncomfortable ideas, a delirious horror experience can be built from any locale, and with any amount of money. (Actually, the film cost around $5 million, but it looks like it could’ve been made for a fraction of that.) Suffice it to say that the cows on star John Lynch’s remote County Wicklow farm have been test-subjected to a little genetic engineering, which only appears to be a potential problem when a lovely bovine vet (Ruth Negga) routinely slides her entire arm into a pregnant cow’s uterus and gets bitten for her troubles. It’s a slow burn to major yuck from there, with low-budget (and non-digital) effects having to do little of the genre work because O’Brien’s moviemaking by itself so expertly creates a sense of natural menace. The DVD’s extras include O’Brien’s fabulous award-winning short, “The Tale of the Rat that Wrote” (1999), which also eschews CGIs for puppetry and a winning way with antiquated-storybook raw materials.

“Climates” (Zeitgeist) and “Isolation” (First Look) are now available on DVD.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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