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Coloring Outside the Lines

Coloring Outside the Lines (photo)

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Sometimes, there’s no pleasing critics and cinephiles — they’ll dreamily wish someone like Turkish arthouse force Nuri Bilge Ceylan would break his introspective paradigm and make a genre film, and then when he does, kinda, with “Three Monkeys,” everyone compliments it tamely with canned praise. “Suspenseful!” was a common pullquote, though “pulpy” was a term I didn’t expect to see but did, in the New York Times.

Pulpy? Ceylan’s movie is as elliptical and internalized and visually elusive as anything by Hou, but it’s as if actually having a story to tell automatically takes you down a notch or two. And the flavor of the tale defines what the film is for most critics, living as we do in a world still oversaturated in the aura of noir.

The trap of having a film about crime and fate labeled “neo-noir” may well be inescapable, even if the story per se has nothing to do with classic noir ideas, and has roots in Greek tragedy, Zola and the Middle Eastern traditions of family honor and retribution. For some reason, just calling “Three Monkeys” a Turkish noir reduces it, ghettoizes it as an Asian lift of themes that we ethnocentrically think are ours alone, or at least belong to American cinema by way of French fatalism and German style. (Funny, I don’t remember hearing “No Country for Old Men” cornered as a neo-noir — are we, critically speaking, caught up in Americianizing the world again here?)

I think the least we can say is that what most people think of as noir themes are as old as Aeschylus’ last papyrus scrap, and we probably should not define many millennia of human storytelling with a cool movie genre that lasted, technically, all of 25 years at best.

Typical of Ceylan, we come at the narrative gist sideways, by way of innocent witnesses, who stumble upon a body and a car on a night road — we see a man dash from the scene into the shadows, but they don’t. Soon thereafter, a politician up for re-election offers to pay his chauffeur Eyüp (Yavuz Bingol) to take the rap for him and spend a year in a jail, away from his son Ismail (Ahmet Rifat Şungar), an aimless, sleep-in student, and Hacer (Hatice Aslon), the boy’s sexy, nagging mother, both living in an Istanbul condo.

1212009_ThreeMonkeys3.jpgThe year begins to pass, the politico loses his contest, the mother and son decide to bargain for an advance on the money in order to buy a car, and things get horrifically complicated emotionally. The plot rolls downhill with a familiar momentum, but there are potholes and cliffs along the way that are less about genre and more about love and its propensity to devour itself.

Still, Ceylan’s movies are not conceptual — “Climates” (2006), his best film, is about a silently dissolving marriage, and that’s all — but textural. Virtually every hyperrealist scene is framed several degrees away from orthodoxy, most of the action happens off-frame or at a hypnotizing distance, and characters never reveal what they think is going on but are not sure about. It’s a syntax of anxiety, shot under steely, brooding Mediterranean skies, so we don’t need to be told that when the boiling Eyüp comes home, finally, there will be trouble of an irreparable sort, but we still don’t know what form it will take. Ceylan won Best Director at Cannes, his fourth award in five years there, and fittingly, “Three Monkeys” is best seen as an art film vision of modern life, not at all a genre piece.

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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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