JOHN LUI RECOMMENDS

Film Picks: The films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Wild, Big Eyes and more

A still from Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
A still from Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

WORLD CINEMA SERIES: THE FILMS OF NURI BILGE CEYLAN

Winter Sleep (2014) and Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (2011) made the top 10 lists of critics everywhere on their release. Both films won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival - the Palme d'Or for Winter Sleep and the Grand Jury Prize for Anatolia - and were official entries for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film category for Nuri Bilge Ceylan's homeland, Turkey.

Ceylan makes films that draw on Western traditions of liberal thought as well as his cultural currents of religious belief, class divisions and local politics. Winter Sleep examines the pretensions of a small-town intellectual and landlord, while Anatolia follows a group of people over the course of one night as they try to work a murder investigation on a cold, dark plain.

Three Monkeys (2008), Climates (2006) and Clouds Of May (1999) round off this retrospective on one of today's most interesting film-makers.

Where: Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road MRT: Dhoby Ghaut When: Feb 13 - 22, various times Admission: $8 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg) Info: www.nationalmuseum.sg


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WILD (M18)

116 minutes

****

Director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriter Nick Hornby, through a torn toenail scene and others like it, offer a master class in how to tell a story without words.

Based on the best-selling 2012 account of a solo 1,800km hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) grows up adoring her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern). Dern's Bobbi is heartbreakingly fragile; the bond between mother and daughter is fierce and tender, never mawkish.

Both deserve their Oscar nominations (Best Supporting Actress for Dern and Best Actress for Witherspoon), but the younger actress' performance as the woman determined to fix herself, one step at a time - or die trying - drives the movie.


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BIG EYES (PG13)

106 minutes

****

This is director Tim Burton, maker of Frankenweenie (2012), Alice In Wonderland (2010) and Corpse Bride (2005), shelving his creepy-cute stylistic trademarks in favour of exploring the fascinating options offered by the story, based on the facts of the Keane art scandal.

Margaret Ulbrich (Amy Adams) flees an abusive husband and lands in beatnik-era San Francisco, where she meets another struggling artist, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz). They marry and Walter discovers that his wife's art, featuring children with saucer eyes, sells better than his. He takes credit for her paintings, telling her no-one takes a female artist seriously. As Margaret, Adams has to show her character probing the limits of her autonomy, even as Walter has her under his control in his capacity as business manager and husband. That match of wits - her pushing, him reining her in - offers truths not just of their marriage, but also in all sexual relationships where there is an imbalance of power.


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THE OBS: A SINGAPORE STORY (PG13)

94 minutes

***1/2

Last year, film-maker Yeo Siew Hua made this documentary about The Observatory, which he and co-producer Dan Koh consider one of Singapore's most talented yet undervalued musicians. The film asks why the band, formed around frontman Leslie Low (formerly of 1990s rock group Humpback Oak), get so little attention in Singapore, despite their reputation as uncompromising musicians. Their musical evolution is charted using archival footage and interviews filmed by Yeo.

Where: The Projector, Golden Mile Tower, Level 5, 6001 Beach Road MRT: Nicoll Highway When: Tomorrow, 10pm, Sun, 7.30pm Admission: $12 at the door Info: theprojector.sg