Steam: The Turkish Bath (1997) Poster

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an interesting film, but forget the homoerotica
alexjb10 December 1998
In the US, this film is being 'pitched' as a film about sexuality. In truth, that is not the film's focus. The main character travels to Turkey and undergoes an unexpected personal transformation. Part of this transformation has to do with same-gender sexuality. But you will enjoy the film much more if you forget about that entirely, and let the story unfold.

I think that the film's main characteristic is that it is subtle. The main character is not shouting his confusion from the rooftops; the viewer is left to draw conclusions from glances and actions (or the lack thereof). Some self-reflection comes in the form of letters that his aunt wrote to his mother, with the implication that he feels the same way.

Steam, or Hamam, is about suddenly finding one's "home", and being willing to accept that discovery and embrace it.
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Beautiful movie
altea13 September 2000
"Steam", also known as "Hamam" or "Il Bagno Turco" is one of the best movies I have ever seen! After repeat viewing you will notice the beauty of the story, characters and the city of Istanbul! Francesco is the sole heir of his aunt, the sister of his mother, whom he has never known! Being single, after a life of love and tragedy, she was living the last years of her life with a Turkish family in an old original part of Istanbul. Due to the downfall of tradition, the Hamam lost its appeal and had to be closed. Francesco, an architect/interior designer, living in Italy, in a wealthy part of Rome with his girlfriend goes to Istanbul to take care of the estate of his aunt. From his arrival he is drawn into the mysterious world of Hamam! Great is his surprise that his inheritance is a Hamam! After getting to know the family, Francesco is engulfed in this new old world of Turkey and Istanbul. Going from very wealthy in Rome to being a guest of a very poor Turkish family, Francesco's life and the Hamam become "one". Francesco has decided to rebuild his life without his girlfriend and Rome and starts rebuilding the Haman in Istanbul to its former glory with the help of Mehmet, son of the Turkish family, who, during the course of the restauration, becomes his lover. From then on things start to develop very quickly in a storm of old against new, east against west, money against poverty, greed against tradition, love against hate and finally gay against straight untill the very end! The conclusion is as shocking as unexpected! A movie to be viewed and reviewed again and again! Highly recommended!
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A Beautiful, subtle, literate movie
iago-63 December 1998
This film is really a very subtle, literate story. Nothing hits you over the head, there's nothing to win or lose at the end, it's just characters and events unfolding and interacting within a languid pace. It's really a beautiful film, both in scenery, sentiment and depth of feeling.

If you've ever visited Istanbul you should see this film. I expected to see the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque right off, but you never see them-- the film chooses to see Istanbul through the charming back alleys and everyday people. The traditions of the country and the warmth of the people are ever-present in this film. Istanbul itself is like a character here, and its special charms are at the center of the story. If you have visited there, you will understand why the characters become so captivated.

But this film only uses Istanbul and the Hamam as a vehicle for showing its characters ways of finding happiness and tranquility in one's life. The story is much more general and eternal. It shares that quality with literature-- it is at once about these specific characters, and also about everyone, everywhere.

Here in New York this film is called "Steam" and is being sold as a major homoerotic experience. It's sad that they have to cheapen this wonderful movie in that way, and people going expecting to get their jollies will be woefully disappointed-- and entirely missing the point.

One tends to think of Turkish/Italian cinema as not being as technically sophisticated, but this film is vary carefully and intelligently written and directed. This really is one of those special, beautiful movies, not as flashy or intense as some, but I think I will remember this film for a long time.

--- Check out website devoted to bad, cheesy and gay movies:
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A great film about happiness!
cera18 January 1999
This is a wonderful film about happiness and love, not some sex film. Finding your true place in life physically as well as emotionally is the theme. Everything is beautiful about this movie, the people, the love between the two men and the between the family and Francesco. Great performances by the cast, especially Alessandro Gassman. Beautiful scenes of Istanbul, which I am sure is not seen by the usual tourist.

I loved this movie and highly recommend it.
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Find your place in life -- mesmerizing!
Tim Evanson3 July 2002
An official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, "Steam (The Hamam)" is a mesmerizing, astounding film that grips you almost from the beginning. Francesco and Marta are a feuding, materialistic, adulterous married couple. But when Francesco inherits a Turkish bath from an aunt he barely knew, he heads to Instanbul to sell it. There, he is seduced away from his high-tech, wealth-obsessed life by the slow, human pace of life led by the people of the ghetto. Francesco finds his bitterness salved by the love of the family who manages the hamam, his heart stolen by the family's hunky son Mehmet, and his too-fast life slowed by the need to rebuild and maintain the hamam. And then Marta arrives, wondering what the heck has gotten into her husband... The film even has a surprise ending. The musical soundtrack was a major hit on the dance circuit. And the film itself became notorious when the Turkish government refused to nominate it for a best foreign film Oscar because of its homosexual content. (The controversy led the Academy to change the way foreign films are nominated.) "Steam" is MUST-see, ranking right up there with "Muriel's Wedding" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
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Knowing how not to say too much
Segoy3 August 2001
So let's restrict ourselves to the most beautiful shot. The closing scene, I think. Here we find yet another of the main characters we have started to know throughout the story, being sucked into the gentle, demanding, chaotic, smoky, colourful and slow whirlpool that is this movie's Istanbul. An antique cigarette holder, a loved-one's sweater, and a calm, steady gaze over the Bosphorus. Representative, in its way, for the entire film. Understatement at its finest.
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Subtle, smart, art
richard-27631 May 2002
I like a movie that has a distinct climax, yet is easy to overlook or perhaps miss altogether. The climax of Hamam is when Francesco hands his wife the letters from his aunt and asks that she send them back when she's finished reading them. It is a seemingly small, inconsequential gesture -- but an act of conviction that describes a person's inner workings far more than could ever be achieved with an abundance of words. It is truly a beautiful moment -- one of many -- and a reason this is a film worth viewing.
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A beguiling, understated tale of self-discovery
Gothick9 April 1999
I agree with those who comment that marketing this as a gay film is an indulgence in false pretenses, but I and my friends have enjoyed this thoughtful, beautifully filmed parable of self-discovery as a parable for the coming-out process. The vagueness and the fact that so much of the story is told through glances, gazes, and shimmering vistas of Old Istanbul means that everyone can bring their own story along with them to illuminate the hints and nuances of this remarkable film.

The ensemble performances were very powerful, and I honestly couldn't find any false notes here, though the atmosphere of Mediterranean melodrama at the film's sudden and somewhat awkwardly contrived conclusion seemed a little heavy and perhaps unnecessary as an ending to the serenity of the film as a whole.

I quite liked the music, and I enjoyed the director's eye for everyday details in a landscape that is very exotic to a North American filmgoer--reminiscent of The Scent of Green Papaya, or Raise the Red Lantern.
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An ordinary extraordinary film this is
Ruby Liang (ruby_fff)10 January 1999
First off the bat, the homosexual suggestive advertising of this film is misleading: it was not the central theme nor occupy any more than a second's brief moment.

This film actually has a very poignant way of telling a story, which is set in Istanbul (this was what drew me to see this film as I remembered my visit to Turkey and fascinated by the city of Istanbul), and Istanbul is really the central backbone of this movie. Story unfolds in a very ordinary everyday way, and through out the film, yes, things just unfold and nothing is presented elaborately – no fuss no emphasis – they all come across in subtle nuances. One recurring activity is eating: breakfast, family dinner at home, dining at a restaurant -- the colorful food on the table, and the people at the table --- it's all happening in a casual simple everyday manner. Yes, it's like you're there with them -- the ‘regular' streets and neighborhood of Istanbul the city that tourists do not see. Meanwhile layers of emotions subtly unraveling and the central characters: Francesco and his wife, Marta, each of their own feelings go through stages of change…through each of their experiences of Istanbul and Francesco's aunt Anita's words… It all come together…and you will enjoy this film. An ordinary extraordinary film this is.
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A story of tragic love that will make you soar...
padre-24 May 1999
This movie was not at all what I expected. The way it was being advertised, one would have thought it was nothing more than a bunch of hot guys getting it on in a steam room. But this movie wasn't even close to being that shallow.

The story is very bittersweet, about two people finally finding themselves only to lose it in the end. There is no conventional happy ending here, but I cannot decide if it is a sad ending. You'll have to see for yourself. Definitely a must see for anyone, gay or straight. The story is the thing here. If you're looking for sex of any kind, you might as well look elsewhere.
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drab, dreary, mystical, magical
graffixalley21 November 2001
I have seen this film twice now, and both times felt enchanted at the end. I was impressed by the fact that while in Italy, colors are bright and edges are sharp but life was just dull. In Turkey, the screen was inundated by drab colors, worn edges and crumbling buildings, but the humble people and surroundings were full of life.

While never afraid of subtitles, I felt their use was enlightening in this case. I was able to put myself in the main character's shoes in not understanding everything being said (well, I could read, but still...) The use of what I perceived to be 'broken Italian' also added to the mood.

The letters being read has been done before and I expected it to be a foreshadowing of things to come but I didn't expect the way it was carried out.

As for the sexuality mentioned in other reviews, I think I would call it sensuality, and it didn't always involve naked bodies.

All in all, this was a great movie. I have also added Istanbul to my list of cities I must visit before I die.
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Turkish bath, hot and sensual
leandros7 November 1998
Istanbul has always been my favorite city. Not just because I live there. But I guess the reasons are best "felt" in this movie. Hamam, not only tells us what traditions originally are (not restricting rules, but guidelines to keep senses, the family and the body together), but also reminds us the mystique remains of a city, where nothing is considered wrong, where life just floats along the steam of the Hamam.

Beautiful and sensual, Hamam is a soft and relaxing movie, like its title suggests.
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In Love with Istanbul All Over Again
Mentor-225 April 1999
We have many films on the theme of how repressed English visit sunny Italy or Greece to discover new depths to their souls, from "Zorba the Greek" through "Room with a View," "Enchanted April," and "Shirley Valentine." "Steam," or "Hamam: Il Bagno Turco," breaks new ground.

To begin to understand the enormity of the life-transforming intensity of feeling the "cold" foreigners experience in Istanbul, the "cold" foreigners are ITALIANS, the very people whom film makers love to contrast with the supposedly cold Brits.

"Il Bagno Turco" made me and two friends -- one of whom had never been there, another who'd lived there four months -- want to hop the next plane for Istanbul, and perhaps never leave.

The film reminded me of how surprised I was to experience the warm hospitality of the Turkish people.

It also reminded me and my friends, once again, of how profoundly civilized the Italian people are.

The cinematography and direction is nothing short of amazing. In one scene, toward the end, the frenzied rush of one of the main characters through the streets of his Istanbul neighborhood to seek help is carried off with balletic precision, while the unseen camera photographs him from a variety of swiftly turning angles, with no camera in sight.
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a good first-work and 3 reason to see it
ughetta869 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is the first film directed by Ozpetek, an Italian director of Turkish origin, and it contains all the recurrent issues of his later work. The movie focuses on Francesco, a young architect, on how his life changes for the better, when he is forced to leave Rome to go to Istanbul. There he finds a completely different way to relate to work and other people, he discovers the importance of value such as solidarity, understanding and family. In the latest part the film have a twist, as long as Francesco's wife Marta comes to Istanbul to make him sign the divorce papers. The man is forced to come to term with his older life. The finale comes unexpected, Francesco is killed (we don't know why, probably 'cos he refuses to sell the hamam) and Marta, instead of leaving, takes over the hamam.

This film is about happiness and the comparison of two ways of life. On one hand we have a western country, where people have all the comforts they need, but they are just too busy to enjoy life and other people around them. On the other there is Istanbul, with its slowness and the warmth of its people, who, even if they are poor, seem much more serene. There are also Ozpetek's recurrent themes, the most important are:

1- the gay character. this director always deals with the topic of homosexuality (being gay himself), even if in this film this is just a collateral issue. In Istanbul Francesco becomes lover of the son of the Hamam caretaker. But this is just a small part of th his growth and their relationship is more suggested than represented. This becomes clear when he finally speaks with his wife about their relationship in Italy, their problem was that they were two stress workaholic and unhappy people, not that he was gay (he doesn't seem to consider himself so);

2- the concept of alternative family, family is a network of people and feelings that support you and make you feel good. He found a family in Turkey living with the Hamam caretaker's family, but he hasn't any in Italy (although being married);

3- food as a metaphor of the joy of staying together, as a tool to welcome other people and strengthen relationships with them (hospitality is an important concept in southern cultures).

All these themes are just hinted in this movie, but they are fully developed in "Le fate ignoranti", probably his masterpiece. Even if immature, I love this film and here you are 3 reasons why it's worth seeing:

1- the topic is interesting and well developed

2- Istanbul is well portrayed in a very non-touristic way

3-(for girls) Alessandro Gasman is so handsome in this film
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wise and confusing love story
Juha Varto1 April 2005
Francesco and Marta are an Italian pair. They fight constantly, are unfaithful to each other, and take the other as a rival. But they are a married couple like Pope wants it. Both yearn for a change. An aunt dies and leaves a fortune but it is in Turkey. Francesco leaves for Istanbul. He finds a different kind of life, men who are more sensitive and able to listen each other, to share experiences, and eager to listen. He finds Mehmet, in years younger but humanly more mature. Mehmet's family and friends open Francesco's eyes to a world more friendly, more meaningful and full of tasks better scaled for a man. He also finds out that man and woman may live together but without family are doomed to be unhappy: they eat each other out. He falls in love with Mehmet. Marta follows to Istanbul and finds out the change. Her pride and her title to marriage are hurt but she also feels certain freedom. Francesco dies later and Marta understands her aunt's letters: as a free woman in Turkey she needs no men to be paired with. Men and women are citizens of same planet but their life are only parallel to each other, not together.
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An Unfolding Without Much Feeling
harry-7619 March 1999
"Hamam" tends to keep one's interest through its presentation rather than its actual content. Nothing much happens of significance, but the director has his characters exchanging furtive glances, knowing expressions, and shoots his scenes in a mysterious manner. The feeling is that something significant is going to happen at any moment; it doesn't really until close to the film's end. Indeed, the director has taken a pretty lame script and made it appear like a minor suspenser. The characters do not say much of anything important, just a lot of small talk and petty attentions. Yet a kind of sensual atmosphere is created by use of the lush color photography and atmospheric Turkish music and scenery. How one enjoys this film will depend on individual tastes. I saw this as part of an international film festival, and simply appreciated an opportunity to sample a Turkish contemporary film, nicely subtitled.
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If ever there has been a film about awakening out of a quietly miserable, ignorant, stagnant life... this is it. MAGIC!
shola23 October 1999
I went to see this film knowing nothing about it whatsoever. From the first heart-wrenching musical note to the heart-breaking end ... I was mesmerized.

The actors are beautiful. They exude intelligent sexuality (if there is such a thing). There is the sense of being entrapped in a circular miserable existence with all the money and the necessities of life but no soul... A married couple works out their banal existence; evolves.

The magic of Turkey and the showering of loving hospitality is reflective of the people from that part of the world. This film is honest, romantic, sensual, intelligent, serene and detailed. This film should have won it's well-deserved Oscar!
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Completely satisfying film of differing cultures
raymond-1530 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
The opening scenes of the film had an immediate impact on me. Clever editing as the film cut to and fro between Istambul and Rome with the urgent sounds of noisy Turkish drums was indeed a haunting introduction. Unhappily married Francesco (Allesandro Gassman) has just received news that his aunt has died and left him some property in Istambul. Believing it's a house he sets forth to sell it only to find it is a hamam(Turkish bath). As a guest at the house where his aunt once boarded he becomes aware of the differences in the Italian and Turkish cultures.. Annoyed at the bickering and haggling business procedures re the price of the hamam, he decides to refurbish it using his skills in interior decorating. The family and neighbours welcome his decision and include him warmly into their family circle. Francesco becomes attracted to Mehmet the son who happens to be a photographer of some talent. The Turkish people are noted for their hospitality and this is clearly portrayed through the various characters in the film. For me I was completely entranced by the wooden buildings of old Istambul, the narrow shaded streets, the strange interiors and the steamy hamams now losing their popularity. Into this dreamy atmosphere comes the wife Marta demanding answers for the long delay in the refurbishment. Marta (Francesca d'Aloja) seems unable to accept this different culture. Marta and Francesco start squabbling again and one night Marta discovers that Francesco and Mehmet the son are more than just good friends. I enjoyed everything about this film...the measured pace, the exotic location, the photography, the music, the talented acting....a wonderful blend ensuring first class entertainment. The story begins with a death and ends with a death suggesting that in some way the hamam is cursed. But the daily life of the Turkish family and the progress of the refurbishment of the hamam is so convincing that we feel in the end that should we go to Istambul we would most likely recognize the hamam and the people who live there. At first I was puzzled about the motive for the knifing and then I remembered the advice given to Francesco: "Take care....she is a dangerous woman!!"
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Not all that steamy
Bill Youngblood (shobill)30 January 2005
An Italian man named Francesco inherits am old Turkish bath from his aunt and travels to Turkey to sell it. The ensuing story deals with his involvement with the bath, with the community of people in its milieu, and especially an attractive young cousin Mehmet who stirs his sexual ambivalence in the men's world of the "hamam" (the bath), and the triangle completed by his wife Marta who has her own issues.

I found the earlier parts of the movie to be slow developing, picking up "steam" as the main character begins to discover himself in the culture of the hamam. The film seems true to Turkish city culture from my limited observations after two trips there. The cinematography seems unnecessarily dark and dingy in places where this wasn't needed for effect. The English subtitles show generally good, clear form (not knowing the original languages I can't vouch for their accuracy), although there is a mixture of Italian and Turkish spoken, with some of the characters speaking only one or the other and not understanding each other: all that isn't clear to us, because we just have the English translation in the same typeset.

This film will be mildly interesting if you like the subject matter, and a number of reviewers have appreciated its subtlety and treatment of a changing culture. For me, I'm glad I saw it, but a masterpiece it's not. I'm rating it a 5.
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Elegantly made...
aka_writer4 January 2004
Being born in Istanbul and having lived most of my life there, I was very much carried away with the subtle Istanbul spirit of the movie. Very emotional, and very delicate... The old Istanbul that is being lost or driven away by the commercialization of evrything else is revived in a very special manner in this movie.

It is a shame though that in the VHS the movies that are previewed are putting this movie into a very wrong shallow category.
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Trip worth taking.
apocalypse later15 June 1999
Despite the direction of this film's marketing, reviews and various plot summaries, "Hamam" is ultimately the tale of the spiritual connection and liberation of two Italian women as they encounter life-altering experiences in exotic Istanbul. The journey to their eventual connection is, in turns, lush, erotic, humorous, tragic - and thoroughly engaging. Wonderful music, cinematography, performances and scenery. A stylish, thoughtful first film from writer/director Ozpetek.
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"The changes and chances of this mortal life"
Ruhi E. Tuzlak3 September 2003
Life is full of surprises. Everything was bright and promising for a young couple living in Rome --at least, everything looked beautiful on the surface... Then came most unexpected changes: Going to a most fascinating city (Istanbul) located in a drastically different country (Turkey) to finish some family business; meeting a loving, close-knit family; making personal connections with the members of the family and other local persons; discovering an architectural peculiarity --Turkish Steam Bath-- not well-known and appreciated even in that city; exploring, enjoying, and getting to know all the unique specialties of this type of "Bath"; and, above all, going through a major personal evolution and discovery. All of these are told with a most beautiful style. The way the story is revealed and the way camera is used in the process of this disclosure are absolutely superlative. The changes people go through and the emotions they experience during these changes are expressed in an exceptionally masterful way. A superb film from a great director.
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Surprisingly both classy and modern at the same time
Izumi28 November 1998
This film will make you want to visit Istanbul. Its grayish cinematography is dreamy rather than dreary. The scenes in those Turkish baths are like pieces of Romantic paintings. The plot was a bit corny, but somehow credible as well.

Gassman is convincing as a sexually confused foreigner, but the most impressive was D'Aloja, who played his wife. Overall, no one overacts nor underacts. "Haman" is a fine film that is both classy and modern at the same time. Don't expect any homo-erotic seedy film.
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Slow at times, but basically satisfying.
Olhado15 November 1999
The atmospheric music and excerpts from "Madame's Letters" help to give the film an exotic Turkish feel (well to me anyway).

Knowing the basic plot, I was expecting the outcome of the Francesco / Marta / Mehmet encounter, but it was still quite well handled.

The ending was a bit of a wrench, and I wasn't quite expecting it to come out that way, so full marks in that respect.

Worth looking out for.
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Beautiful imagery, hitched to crude homophobia
Steven Bradford9 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It's difficult to say why this film is so bad without giving away the shock ending. For the first 80 minutes it seems a beautifully photographed portrait of a small community within Istanbul that is endangered by the rush of time and progress, and the young man who tries to save a small piece of it. Then with little warning, or rationale from the plot, the lead character meets a violent end, literally out of nowhere. The male love interest disappears, and the cheating wife swoops in to claim the Turkish bath her husband had been restoring. It's pretty obvious this is a tacked on ending to make the film acceptable to the censors, and the audience in its country.
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