Riza Senyurt is the world's most troubled Santa Claus at Christmas time. For one thing, he doesn't know who Santa Claus is. Whether fake or real however, he is Santa Claus now. Bearing the ...
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Riza Senyurt is the world's most troubled Santa Claus at Christmas time. For one thing, he doesn't know who Santa Claus is. Whether fake or real however, he is Santa Claus now. Bearing the load of the whole world on his shoulders, Santa Claus finally finds a clue. Life as we knot it isn't more factual than the lies children believe in. Written by
Riza, a poor fellow living in Istanbul suburbs, has to work as Santa at a shopping mall leading up to Christmas
I have just watched this movie together with 8 other people in a rather western Istanbul mall, fitting to the movie itself. Being it the holiday season I was at once struck with the little number in attendance since Yilmaz Erdogan is a popular name in Turkish cinema and media. I sincerely hope the low number attending the movie with me will be the same across all cinemas in Turkey and abroad as this movie was/is a true disappointment both to capacity of Yilmaz Erdogan as a writer/comedian and that of the remaining cast. I am afraid the possible box office success of this movie, thanks to the partisan Turkish media and film critics who always lack good taste and courageous comments when it comes to the works of people like of Yilmaz Erdogan, will add to the future failure of Turkish cinema since a shallow movie like this being described as "profound" will set the "profound" and "good film" limits rather low.
The story line is as follows: Riza is a 40-some year old living in Istanbul suburbs. He has made numerous bad investment decisions in the past, one of which was involvement in a Madoff-like scheme that bankrupt him as well as numerous friends from the neighborhood. Now his old friends are taking Riza's old company, Neseli Hayat Sirketi/Joyful Life Company to the court which means Riza himself will also have to pay for the damages caused by and money lost through the scheme of Neseli Hayat. He needs money to pay for a lawyer yet that is exactly what he is thin on. Furthermore he lives in a country with +10% unemployment rate and there aren't many jobs, specially leading to Christmas. On top of it all golden-hearted Riza has to pay for his brother in law's wedding, since the brother in law has impregnated his girlfriend and the failure to marry her before the new year means eminent death by the girlfriend's parents. So Riza picks up a job as Santa at a rather fancy shopping mall in Istanbul. He has to Ho-ho-ho clients in a toy store in a Muslim country that does not uphold the Santa tradition (even if St Nicholas is believed to have lived in Southern Turkey).
First of all: the story, that of an average Joe/Riza, who at heart is a fur ball of goodness but is, as Turkish scripts often go, caught up in between undesired hardships of life never gets any depth. Riza as well as the hardships he faces are brushed by and around. We never truly feel the dilemmas or excitement of Riza as a human-being. The rest of the characters are written even worse, we do not care for any characters least their hardships, which proves to be rather problematic since it seems no one is trouble-free. These characters are not life like, by which this humble viewer means not that they are not real but rather not written to serve their own existence in the storyline: no flesh or soul only solid forms put on screen to bounce back dialog or to create caricature-like moments that try to pass as comedy. Which brings us to the second point: comedy! This movie is NOT a comedy and it failed miserably at making me laugh let alone smile. Moments when this self-claimed comedy is most comic like coincide with few actors doing impressions alluding to a popular TV show, Cok Guzel Hareketler Bunlar, with majority of the actors from this movie and also produced by Mr Erdogan himself. The fact that writing of Neseli Hayat fails to make the audience feel sadness or smile at a movie that is described as a comedy-drama also adversely affects acting. As a firm believer in the great potential of all the actors in this film it was sad to see how everyone underperformed and overacted. While this can be attributed to the bad script and even worse directing, Mr Erdogan manages to be give an impressive effort in acting Riza. He is a good actor but still in this film, thanks to the bad writing, he tries to act rather then to be Riza. The other 6 people in the audience kept laughing at every appearance by Ersin Korkut playing the "rapist" brother in law, admittedly a funny looking fellow who won the hearts of millions in the above-mentioned TV show. However with his sense of comic and comedy limited to Turkish spoken with a heavy Kurdish-Turkish accent, Mr Korkut, seemingly a great guy, adds to the OK racism ingrained in Turkish daily life. Mr Korkut delivers to the audience-et-large exactly what they want to see and laugh at: a looser that is laughed at and drawn as not-Turkish due his "none Turkish" accent. A comparable act and character in American cinema would be more than enough to paint the actor, the picture and its creator as promoting racism. Last but not least: the art direction in this film was beyond horrible! Both my date and I were dumbstruck as to how poor, unobservant, disregarding and not fitting the decors and mis-en-scene were. But thanks to the horrible music that constantly reminded us of the earlier use of music in cinema as a mood pusher, art direction escapes being the poo in the pad. 5 stars but only due my love for Mr Erdogan's early work.
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