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September 23, 2007

Block-C, 1994

blockC.gifIn his essay on the film, critic Gözde Anaran insightfully notes that Zeki Demirkubuz had been an inmate of the Block-C penitentiary after the September 12, 1980 coup d'état. This sense of institutionalization also surfaces in the way Demirkubuz frames the middle class, high-rise residential apartment complex that provide the claustrophobic setting for his first film. Something like an unpolished Michelangelo Antonioni film in its interpenetration of alienating landscapes and interior turmoil, Block-C is a flawed, yet seminal film in Demirkubuz's body of work - a complex character study that provides the psychological and visceral paradigm for his subsequent films. Using the rapid development of the Ataköy apartments during the 1980s as a reflection of the country's rapid cultural transformation, Demirkubuz creates a metaphor for the nation's profound moral transformation in the wake of Turkey's post 1980 military coup economic liberalization. Told from the perspective of a bored, middle class housewife, Tulay (whose increasing restlessness is initially revealed through the increasing frequency of her aimless road trips around the city, even during at the height of a storm) whose life begins to gradually unravel after she accidentally walks in on her maid Asli and her lover, the building superintendent's son, Halit one day in an act of intimacy in the apartment, the film also suggests sympathy with the eponymous housewife of Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles in capturing the seemingly liminal perturbations that surface within the heroine's daily routine that ultimately lead to profound consequences. Also worth noting is that during the subsequent panel discussion, Demirkubuz indicated that Honoré de Balzac was one of the novelists whose works he "discovered" as a result of the 1980 military coup, and the integral theme of stairs as a metaphor for social station in Balzac's novel, Père Goriot, may also be seen in the recurring imagery of the staircases and elevators that separate the characters in Block-C (albeit in overturned form as a result of technology, where the higher levels now represent the premium spaces), including a running joke involving a hapless deliveryman who is never allowed entry into the secured building.

Posted by acquarello on Sep 23, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Zeki Demirkubuz


Acquarello: It frequently amazes me how you always seem to be the first to see these rarely-seen films. My compliments. This film has been booked into this year's City to City program at TIFF, which is focusing on Istanbul and Turkish cinema. I'm hoping to catch as many of these as my schedule allows. Can you speak on further on what you found "flawed" in this film? If you can recall? I realize you watched it three years ago.

Posted by: Michael Guillen on Aug 20, 2010 2:03 PM | Permalink

Hi Michael, thanks for dropping in. As much as I love to take credit, the kudos really belong to FSLC for their programming. :) They have a good relationship with Arte East and provide a much needed venue for these off the beaten path stuff. I remember that Demirkubuz seemed to be struggling between storytelling and image-making in this one. There's a good deal of allusive elements/actions in the film that never quite cohere with respect to the woman's psychology or motivation (beyond the middle-class ennui thing), so it seemed underformed and conventional in that sense. As a cultural outsider, this one also seemed more geared towards finding commonality with an international audience than in commenting on present day Turkish society.

Posted by: acquarello on Aug 20, 2010 6:41 PM | Permalink

Thanks for getting back to me so fast, A; appreciate it. I haven't checked yet to see if this is available on DVD; but, with your reservations in mind, I feel compelled to check it out as a piece of recent Turkish cinema history.

Posted by: Michael Guillen on Aug 23, 2010 1:24 AM | Permalink

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