Balalayka (2000) Poster


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The Turkish - Russian Connection
delasalsa12 January 2008
This film was surprisingly good after seeing at least 5 Turkish movies during the last week! The movie is based on a very realistic story and all players act in a very professional way. This is something I was missing in other Turkish movies that I recently watched. All players seem to be chosen from ordinary types from Turks are Russians, though some of them are really professionals. The director Ozgentürk is well-known with some other good films in Turkey and he seems to manage to make a nice composition from both cultures. The movie is rather long, which is almost 2 h, but you will love to follow every detail. Well done and congrats to all cast!
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Better than "The Horse"-now my favorite Ozgenturk film
turkam3 November 2003
I really enjoyed this movie. The fact that it has a 6.7 on the IMDB does not surprise me. It is what I call a film with many flaws that ultimately manages to make such an impression that one can't help but feel compelled to praise the film enthuiastically even though one might sympathize with its' detractors. I call it "The Last Tango in Paris" effect. Much like that film's director Bernardo Bertolucci, Ali Ozgenturk is a realist director whose films often feel like documentaries. He gained notoriety with "At- The Horse" almost two decades ago. Other than "Bekci-The Watchman" few of his films have reminded viewers of his initial artistic success. "Balalayka" is that reminder though. It is a story which is at the very heart of today's Turkey, a country and culture which has always been affected by the geopolitical changes around its' borders. The fall of the Soviet Union and the impending economic struggles of the Russian people has actually lead to many Russian immigrating to Turkey- a country where more people tend to leave the country, as my father did, for work outside. And, alas many Russian women have fallen into prostitution rings which manipulate their need for economic gain. The film also shows the role of family in Turkish life, and how that infastructure, so absent in the West especially in America, has allowed for people to go on with their lives in spite of adversity and tragedy. Kemal Sunal, the great Turkish comic actor who died suddenly as he was set to go to Trabzon- the Black Sea region- to star in this movie is a figure who will be a hero of Turkish cinema for many years to come. It is hard to say that anyone can replace him, but in this film Ugur Yucel does a tremendous job in his place and in the process he manages to equal Sunal's last film appearance in the great Turkish comedy "Propaganda." I hope with the arrival of "Uzak-Distance" in U.S. theaters next year, there will be a renewed interest in Turkish cinema. It could allow more people to view films like "Balayka" and applaud them for the fact that their artisitc merit empahtically surpasses whatever technical deficiencies one may see in such films.
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Starts well, then falls apart; disappointing by the end
eroka21 July 2001
The film is about three Turkish brothers fulfilling their father's dying wish – to bring back the remains of his old buddy from Russia back to Turkey. This is just the premise to get the Turkish characters to take the bus home with the coffin. On that bus they will meet and fall in love with a bunch of Russian women who are making their way to Turkey, to work in prostitution. All THIS is contained in a flashback, which starts the movie, of one of these woman who ended up staying in Turkey.

The group of women is very diverse, and yet - a few of them seem to know Turkish rather well, which makes the situation seem contrived. In this respect the movie is quite silly to begin with and the transitions between the languages for the non-Russian and non-Turkish speaker may seem seamless, but they are one of the things that hurt the film's credibility. It's as if the whole setup was meant to create the situation – get 3 Turkish guys with a bunch of beautiful Russian women and get the story going from there, without taking into account at all almost any language barriers (they do exist in one couple's case though).

The gallery of characters is rather interesting, but it is never explained why the women are forced to work as prostitute in Turkey. The mafia people who handle their transport are mean people, sometimes depicted in a ridiculous way, especially when they demand that a woman who works for them and is helping her cousin to get to Turkey to get a new prosthesis will hand the poor girl to them as one of the prostitute. It's not even clear if the

act of bringing these women to Turkey is illegal or not.

Once the bus crosses the border and the band gets stuck is some hole in the mountains the story starts to fall apart, with numerous mistakes of continuity and plot. It just goes downhill from there till the silly and unconvincing ending. Individual characters are sketched rather well, but any character interactions after that tends to be simply dull, if not really stupid. I'll point this one as an example: All the women are intrigued by the oldest brother – a guy of 55 or so – instead of his rather handsome little brother of about 27. The character is a real bore and lacks any charisma that might have been included in the script.

As a whole, the movie is not a good one and does not get above 4/10. It's not a real bore though, so if you want to get some folklore you may get that in the bus scenes.
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