Milk

Second leg in the "Yusuf trilogy" by Turkish auteur Semih Kaplanoglu, "Milk" is a notch more watchable than the first, "Egg," largely thanks to a dignified performance by well-known actress Basak Koklukaya ("A Touch of Spice") as the teen protag’s mom.

With:
With: Melih Selcuk, Basak Koklukaya, Riza Akin, Saadet Isil Aksoy, Tulin Ozen, Alev Ucarer, Serif Erol, Tansu Bicer, Orcun Koksal, Sahra Ozdag, Semra Kaplanoglu, Burcu Aksoy.

Second leg in the “Yusuf trilogy” by Turkish auteur Semih Kaplanoglu, “Milk” is a notch more watchable than the first, “Egg,” largely thanks to a dignified performance by well-known actress Basak Koklukaya (“A Touch of Spice”) as the teen protag’s mom. But this story of a withdrawn wannabe poet, conflicted over his own and his mother’s future, is still mighty thin material stretched over 102 minutes, and with a directorial self-importance the content simply doesn’t merit. Fests and the minimalist crowd will lap this up, but not many theater bookers.

Middle seg of the “Honey, Milk and Egg” trilogy — which Kaplanoglu is, of course, making in reverse order —shows Yusuf Guner (Melih Selcuk) as a high school grad in his hometown somewhere in Anatolia. (Like “Egg,” the pic was actually shot around Tire.) Extremely slow first 40 minutes, in which every shot is extended to twice its necessary length, draws out the everyday tedium of life on the family milk farm, Yusuf’s attempts to get his poems published, and the patience of his mom, Zehra (Koklukaya, discreetly aged), in putting up with his impractical, poetic nature.

Though dialogue remains at a minimum, things gradually start to change when Yusuf suspects his still-attractive, widowed mother is having an affair with the local station master (Serif Erol). And when Yusuf is called up for military service, and travels to Izmir for his physical, he meets a girl, Semra (Saadet Isil Aksoy, “Egg”), of a similarly poetic bent.

Neither that relationship nor the mother’s affair is shown beyond the initial meeting. And the film unspools almost entirely from the p.o.v. of Yusuf, who is as dramatically a blank slate as he was as an adult returning to his hometown in “Egg.”

The script flirts with local superstitions — including a form of “snake exorcism,” which makes up the precredits sequence — but neither that nor the mother-son bond amounts to anything fresh or illuminating. Lensing by Ozgur Eken is fine.

Milk

Turkey - Germany - France

Production: A Kaplan Film Prod. (Turkey)/Heimatfilm (Germany)/Arizona Films (France) production. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Semih Kaplanoglu. Co-producers, Bettina Brokemper, Johannes Rexin, Guillaume de Seille. Directed by Semih Kaplanoglu. Screenplay, Kaplanoglu, Orcun Koksal.

Crew: Camera (color), Ozgur Eken; editor, Francois Quiquere; art director, Naz Erayda; sound (Dolby Digital), Marc Nouyrigat. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Aug. 31, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Visions.) Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Melih Selcuk, Basak Koklukaya, Riza Akin, Saadet Isil Aksoy, Tulin Ozen, Alev Ucarer, Serif Erol, Tansu Bicer, Orcun Koksal, Sahra Ozdag, Semra Kaplanoglu, Burcu Aksoy.

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