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‘Mustang’ and Other Weekend Discoveries

‘Mustang’ and Other Weekend Discoveries

          Holed up over
a long holiday weekend I had the rare luxury of time to catch up with reading
and screenings. My
primary discovery was the French-Turkish import Mustang, which has made the short-list for this year’s foreign-language
Academy Awards. It marks a notable feature debut for director Deniz Gamze Ergüven, who also wrote
the screenplay with Alice Winocour…but
you don’t need to read the credits to intuit that this story is told from a
female perspective. It’s not just a matter of empathy with the five young
sisters who dominate the story, but the intimacy Ergüven achieves with her (mostly
non-professional) actresses. This is one of those rare movies that doesn’t seem
to have been scripted or rehearsed: everything about it seems utterly genuine
and spontaneous.

          The setting
is a seaside community in Northern Turkey. As the school year ends, the five
sisters frolic with some boys in the surf, and a disapproving neighbor tells
their grandmother that they have been “pleasuring themselves” in an
inappropriate manner. Orphaned for ten years, they have been raised in a
relaxed manner, but this outrage serves as a call to action for their stern uncle,
who makes them virtual prisoners in their home and cuts them off from the
outside world. The grandmother begins instructing them in wifely duties and proceeds
to marry them off, one by one. Their ferocious and rebellious spirit finds its
center in the youngest girl, Lale, who is determined not to fall victim to her
older sisters’ fate.

          Mustang is a fiery drama laced with
moments of humor, and the ironies of a patriarchal society built on a bedrock
of hypocrisy. Yet I
wouldn’t pigeonhole this as a feminist tract: it’s good, solid storytelling
without a wasted moment.

          To learn
where and when Mustang is playing
near you, click HERE.

          Later this
week I’ll share some thoughts about less high-falutin’ film fare I’ve been
watching, and enjoying, at home.

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