Monday, August 10, 2009

"Tulpan" and "Moon."

Business has been bustling lately at the Loft Cinema ( with so many great movies to see such as "Food Inc.," "Moon," "Unmistaken Child," and "The Lemon Tree."  I recommend all of these movies highly. I'm sorry I have been too busy organizing a directing workshop to write them up.

Reflecting back on, "Moon." This mostly two set, two actor production (by director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Nathan Parker) was one of the best indie films of the year. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is completing his job of extracting helium-3 from the moon's soil. He has been stationed at the mostly automated lunar base for three years with his robotic assistant Gerty (Kevin Spacey). His only human contact are recorded transmissions from his wife and young daughter back on earth. With just weeks left of his assignment, Sam has started to hallucinate about other people on board and their motives.

"Moon," illuminates what it is to be human: the necessity of having hope and our need to connect with other people.

"Tulpan" was just so special that I was inspired to write the following review. (See below.) Enjoy!


Long shot of the desolate, dusty Kazakhstan terrain with a scraggly herd of sheep, two donkeys, a honking camel, and a round sheep skin yurt.

Snug in the yurt is a family. A lovely young mother enjoys her three playful children. The kids get on their tired father's nerves. Uncle Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov) has just arrived home after a stint in the navy.

It feels like the filmmaker just happened onto this little nomad family and captured a glimpse of their lives on film. There is a naturalism and ease you won't find in documentaries. The conflict is subtle - like the tension when the baby climbs out of a trap door near a herd of scampering sheep. The father demands that the mother not spoil the child by calling him back inside. The father (Ondasyn Besikbasov) is intent on toughening up his young ones to be herdsmen.

But the mother (Samal Yeslyamova) is intent on keeping her loved ones close and safe. She cherishes her family as her source of happiness in this isolated, harsh land.

At first their lives seem bleak by modern standards. Their only connection with the outside world is the scratchy news broadcast on the older boy's portable radio and occasional visits from Asa's friend to deliver water. Even this little bit of civilization seems to encroach on their way of life. The portable radio distracts the boy from his chores and the irrelevant news reports compete with traditional folk songs his sister sings for entertainment. The water carrier with his truck decorated in nudie pictures, beckons Asa to leave the family cocoon to find a wife or a job in the city.

But Asa longs for a family of his own and a herd - of camels. This guy has big dreams. Unfortunately the only eligible girl in the regain, Tulpan, isn't interested in marrying Asa because he has big ears. And Asa has yet to gain his brother-in-laws respect as a herdsman.

"Tulpan," is full of cinematic miracles. Cinematographer Jola Dylewska uses long shots to catch actual acts of nature (often in a single take) such as the dust devil that threatens the herd. This is all integrated beautifully into the story. Director Sergy Dvortsevoy shepherds a herd of scruffy animals, non-actors and young children into unbelievably real performances with quirky humor and touching moments in this meaningful story.

Movie blessings!
Jana Segal

No comments: