A '90s-set, seriocomic tale of a small-time entrepreneur hoping to parlay his black-market smarts into a legitimate business operation.

A ’90s-set, seriocomic tale of a small-time entrepreneur hoping to parlay his black-market smarts into a legitimate business operation, “The Market — A Tale of Trade” marks Brit helmer Ben Hopkins’ (“Simon Magnus”) second sally into Turkey, following the success of his award-winning docu, “37 Uses for a Dead Sheep.” Marvelously entertaining lead perf by Tayanc Ayaydin, who snagged Locarno’s actor prize, enlivens a battery of escalating negotiations as the joys and challenges of hands-on bartering give way to the impersonal dictates of supply and demand. Hopkins’ outsider status occasionally hampers the local ambience, but thoroughly engaging “Market” should travel well.

Mihram (Ayaydin) tools all over the Turkish countryside in his pickup, buying and selling whatever hard-to-find or illegal merchandise his motley clientele requires. He ekes out a fair living for himself and his vivacious wife, Elif (Senay Aydin), but is always at the mercy of chance. Constantly stalked by black-marketeer Mustafa (Hakan Sahin), who wants him to join the big boys, Mihram stubbornly seeks another way.

Mihram suddenly sees the future, and it is cell phones. If he can only buy his way into the business, Mihram knows he will have it made. Unfortunately, he lacks the dough. Enter the local doctor, whose children-rescuing serum has been hijacked by thieves. Fast-talking Mihram emerges from the ensuing transaction with a fistful of cash, newfound respect from his wife for his humanitarian sacrifice, and a scheme to get his franchise and save the kids, too.

Mihram’s complicated trajectory takes him across the border to Kazakhstan, where he joins up with his crotchety uncle (vet stage great Genco Erkal) and sets forth on a series of adventures. But, the price of success proves high indeed.

By throwing in a flamboyantly costumed female singer who acts as Turkish chorus to Mihram’s rise and fall, helmer-scribe Hopkins veers toward the exotically folkloric. Yet the audience identification and sympathetic laughter generated by Ayaydin’s charismatic performance could not be more accessibly universal. Ultimately, however, as Mihram’s independence, ingenuity and people skills get ruthlessly co-opted in a hostile takeover, “The Market” seems less concerned with the vagaries of commerce than with the fragile nature of creativity.

Narrative-driven pic’s tech credits are accomplished, though scenes sometimes seem underpopulated.

The Market – A Tale of Trade

Germany- UK - Turkey - Kazakhstan

Production

A Flying Moon Filmproduktion, Geissendorfer Film -- und Fernsehproducktion (Germany)/ LLP Eurasia Film (Kazakhstan)/Tigerlily Films (U.K.)/Pi Film (Turkey) production, in association with BBC Four. (International sales: the Works Intl., London.) Produced by Roshanak Behesht Nedjad. Co-producers, Gulnara Sarsenowa, Hans W. Geissendorfer, Nikki Parrott, Ceyda Tufan. Directed, written by Ben Hopkins.

Crew

Camera (color), Konstantin Kronig; editor, Alan Levy; music, Cihan Sezer; production designer, Atilla Yilmaz; costume designer, Zeynep Sirlikaya; sound (Dolby Digital), Jacob Ilger; sound designer, Lars Ginzel. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (International Competition), Aug. 12, 2008. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Tayanc Ayaydin, Genco Erkal, Senay Aydin, Hakan Sahin, Rojin. (Turkish dialogue)

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