This is part two of my exclusive interview with Cem Kaya, director of the documentary Remake, Remix, Rip-Off. Read part one here. In this final instalment, Cem explains why there’s so much more to Turkish Fantastic Cinema than we think, and why there’s more to director Çetin İnanç than Turkish Star Wars.
People get a lot of mileage out of making fun of these films or the novelty of them, but they often don’t follow through with buying a copy. This is why your film is important, because if it changes people’s opinions of these films, maybe that will turn that balance, so people see them as more than just a novelty.
I don’t know. I mean, the question is whether after the film you go and get yourself a copy of The Man Who Saves The World [AKA Turkish Star Wars] and watch it 110 minutes through. The Man Who Saves The World, if you’re not an enthusiast of these films, it’s funny and all these things, but speaking in terms of dramaturgy, it can get boring. There are other Çetin İnanç films that are beyond imagination. You don’t have to go into the science fiction genre to make crazy films. There are some films, you watch them and say, “Who’s the director?!” And then you see, OK, it was Çetin İnanç. Therefore,The Man Who Saves The World, it’s an OK film for what it is, but it’s not Çetin İnanç. there are others that are much more important, like Dört Yanim Cehennem (1982), which is just such a crazy film. The Man Who Saves The World, it’s a kids’ film.
For instance Dört Yanim Cehennem, this is one of the most important Turkish films, most important Çetin İnanç films, and also Deli Fisek (1984). I got many scenes out of that one, in my movie. Because the amazing thing is that everybody is talking about these rip offs and about Çetin İnanç films and Yılmaz Atadeniz and the Killing films and all these things, but from Çetin İnanç, the film they talk about is The Man Who Saved The World. But, as I put it in my documentary, the guy has made so many films that are just unknown even to the fantastic film audience, that are totally crazy…and visionary, in a sense. Son Savasçi, The Last Warrior (AKA Holy Sword, 1982), or The Death Warrior (Ölüm Savasçisi, 1984). It’s two films that use the same footage. One is directed by Cüneyt Arkın himself, and the other one is directed by Çetin İnanç and they have this crazy martial arts finale. “Crazy Turkish ninja movie,” they say on YouTube. This is the kind of madness that Çetin İnanç has in his films and in The Man Who Saves The World, this madness is somehow missing.
Let me tell you one anecdote about Cemo İle Cemile (Çetin İnanç, 1971), the Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) remake, and why I think Çetin İnanç is such a visionary director. Bonnie and Clyde has this finale where, in super-slow motion, they die, in the original movie. Çetin İnanç sees this and he wants to make exactly the same finale, but the problem is he just has black and white film, because back then colour film was really hard and expensive to get, so he has to use black and white. And there was no 35mm camera in Turkey that can do slow motion. So what do we do? If it had been just a regular director, he could have said, “It doesn’t matter, we can’t do it.” But what does Çetin İnanç do? He goes to the most important camera people in Turkey and he asks and then one guy says, “The only chance you have is to make the slow motion with a 16mm camera and then to push the film. But you will have problems because here on the side you will have some dirty stuff and the quality will differ.” And Çetin İnanç says, “OK, it doesn’t matter. If I get my slow motion, it’s OK.” So they do the slow motion, and you see it in my film, and it differs from the other film material and it was the first slow motion shot in Turkish cinema ever. You see? So it was a first and this is what makes, if you ask me, Çetin İnanç so important, because the guy’s after it, he’s looking for solutions, in the mess he’s making films in, or the desert he is making film in. And I think this is important to know, to acknowledge and to appreciate.
And then the film itself, it’s Bonnie and Clyde but it’s more than Bonnie and Clyde because it’s telling the story of people coming from Anatolia to the big cities, but it’s telling it through this gangster couple and they come to the city and the culture is different. All of a sudden, from this village culture that they come from, the city culture is very different. There is this “white Turk” culture there and they’re facing some stuff that changes their vision of the world. There are good and bad things. They change their clothes – they come with their village clothes and they go into a shop and they change, they become really western. So there’s much more than Bonnie and Clyde, the Hollywood version, because it’s very Turkish. It tells a Turkish story of immigration back then in Turkey because it was exactly like this when the first broadcasts came to the big city. I made a film about this in 2010, when I was doing a film on Arabesk culture, the culture of the immigrant music. I think it’s on YouTube [here]. He does it in this context and it fits perfectly, because if you trace back the story of Bonnie and Clyde, the real Bonnie and Clyde story, which is not the glorified and polished version in the Hollywood movie, they were redneck white people coming from the countryside and I don’t know whether they came from Ireland to the States or what their background was, but it was really a white trash couple and then Hollywood made something beautiful out of it. They were really working class, there was no glory in it. And then [İnanç] gets problems with censorship and they say, “There was no bank robbery. With the bank robbery in your film, you tell people to rob banks,” and so they censor the film and he has to change it. And all these things happen to the film, which is just a mainstream film. So I think the guy was struggling all the time and he just kept doing it. And they had a lot of fun too, making the films.
[İnanç] was lucky to have Cüneyt Arkın. He made eight films with Cüneyt Arkın and it was just in a period when Yeşilçam [literally “Green Pine”, equivalent to “Hollywood” in American cinema] cinema was really going down and the big action star Cüneyt Arkın, because he’s really a big star in Turkey, he had to work with directors “third class”, “fifth class” directors like Çetin İnanç. Because normally a guy like Çetin İnanç never gets to work with a guy like Cüneyt Arkın. It was the demise of Yeşilçam while Arabesk musicians became superstars, became actors and all the cinemas in Turkey were showing American movies. And then, after the mid 80s, it was totally done, Yeşilçam didn’t exist anymore. They were really struggling and in this time, you see that the films get more exaggerated, the excess part of the films takes over. Only excess. And I was always asking, “Why is that? Why in the 80s do they become so ultraviolent?” It has a lot to do with neo-liberalism back then but it has also to do with the struggle to create a difference to the original films. One of the academics I talked to, Nezih Erdoğan, wrote an essay, [“Violent Images: Hybridity and Excess in The Man Who Saved The World”], saying, “Where Luke Skywalker hits once, Cüneyt Arkın has to hit 100 times.” Because he doesn’t have the technology, he can’t do it like the Americans do. He’s in an uneven or an unjust challenge with something. So to win the battle, or to win his audience at least, to get some people to watch his movie, he has to create a difference and this difference, the only thing he has to create this difference, is emotion. And that’s the reason why the films are so exaggerated. That’s the reason why Cüneyt Arkın is like [demonstrates howling]. He has to do this, because it’s the only thing he has. He’s fighting and the only thing he has is, “Look, guys, I really feel it!”
Şeytan (Metin Erksan, 1974) is a funny movie, because it’s a one-to-one remake of the film. I did some research on this film and found out that the film was forbidden, banned in Turkey for seven years, the original, so the Turkish filmmakers, they went to London and transcribed the film in the cinema, they were watching it and writing it down, what happens in the film, went back to Turkey and made an Islamic version of it. And it was Metin Erksan, by the way, the author-filmmaker of the time. So it was no trash filmmaker, it was Metin Erksan who won the Berlin Golden Bear in 1964 [for Susuz Yaz]. So this guy made the film and it was not a cheap production. It was big production. It took six months and they tried to do the special effects and they somehow made a nice film. But the important thing about the film is because the original was forbidden, was banned in Turkey, for such a time period, it showed the Turkish audience that, outside of Turkey, exists a film like this. He showed a translation of the film. He just showed them, “There is a film, yes. It’s something like this.” (laughs) And I think this is the big gain that we have through this film.
How much more preferable is that than to simply dub something, or even to remake it, Hollywood style? You’d much rather have something more inventive.
Yes. This version, for instance, there’s one scene… I just want to explain to you, Yeşilçam simplifies everything. There’s no death, really, in Yeşilçam films. Not talking about the auteur cinema, which is also made within Yeşilçam, but more the mainstream cinemas. In Şeytan also there were simplifications, so it was not so religiously overloaded as the original. In the Turkish version, there are no religious people doing the exorcism, it’s a specialist and an archeologist. And then the woman is like the character of a white Turk. People who are more Western in Turkey, we call “White Turk”. And to people who are more Anatolian, who are more village people, who are poor, we call, “Black Turk”. Because the White Turks are the elite in Turkey, or used to be the elite, and the Black Turks were the ones who got always exploited and so on. So she was a caricature of a White Turk for example. She played tennis, she was a woman who raises her child alone, you know. She was very like a man, how she treated the people who worked for her and stuff. What Metin Erksan does there is he portrays a White Turk in a very exaggerated way. In the original, you don’t have something like this. She is just a regular person who’s a journalist and who’s raising her child. Being a mother, raising her child alone is not an issue. But in the Turkish one, it’s an issue, because you have to translate it. You have to tell the Anatolian audience, at the border to Syria, “Look, this is a woman who raises her child alone. In our society, it may not be normal, but this is how it is and therefore she has to be very manly, a very strong person, for she is a woman without a man.” So these kinds of things you see in the film.
There’s one scene, in the original, there’s the hypnosis scene, where she grabs the doctor by the balls and in the beginning of this hypnosis scene, in the original film she goes into a trance. He just says, “I’m counting to three and then you’re in a trance,” or whatever. He doesn’t even say the trance thing. In the Turkish version, you have a big clock, panned-in in front of the camera. You have the girl watching the big thing and then it goes for a really long time and then they zoom out and the psychiatrist says, “Oh, stunning. She went into a trance very fast.” What they do there is first they are explaining hypnosis to the audience, you see, because they think, “OK, my audience doesn’t know what hypnosis is because we don’t have such kind of modern treatment methods in Turkey.” And all these things, these little things, are very important in the storytelling of Yeşilçam, because you’re always wondering why it’s an absurd scene but the aim is to explain to the illiterate audience in Anatolia what hypnosis is, first of all, because if not [they are] not going to understand the film.
I mean, Turkish cinema is not just these films. They have also Turkish classics, many arthouse films, black and white films that were made in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They have the social comedy, which I miss now because there are some cult films in Turkey that are so brilliantly made. Like, do you know the Spanish director [Luis García] Berlanga? Do you know Berlanga films? Comedies that are in between – you know, making their criticism about the system, but in a comedy.
Kind of subversive?
Yeah, very. You know Plácido, the film? It’s a Berlanga film, but imagine in Spain back then, it was dictatorship and we had fascism still. And for Turkey, the circumstances were similar because we had this military coup in 1980 and then in 82-83, we got the neo liberal Özal government and then the wild capitalism. What happened in Russia in the 90s happened in Turkey in the 80s. So society was changing and it was a real hardcore change because it used to be a pre-capitalist society and then it became a capitalist society and these changes made really big wounds in society and are also the reason why Turkey today is what it is. That happened in England too. It was the era of Thatcher and Kohl in Germany and Reagan in the States and you know this was really a big evil upon the world, society. In Turkey back then the social comedy was a genre, a big genre, but it died out. There’s no-one doing social comedy any more. It’s a shame.
When you were in Turkey, were you your own guide? Did you make your own list of people to see, or did you have anyone there that was helping you?
No, I did it myself. I had people I asked, “How can I reach these people, or how can I get in contact with them?”, but basically, there was nobody in Turkey who was helping me with this. Because there are many TV documentaries about Yeşilçam in Turkey, but they are nostalgic formats. “Oh, the times back then, ha-ha, how nice,” and then you put the music under it. The problem in Turkey is or was that nobody has the approach that I have to the films, as a filmmaker. There are audiences with the same approach, but not filmmakers. This makes it difficult to understand, in the beginning, what I wanted to do. And then, when the Turkish audiences watch the film, what happens there is funny because there is a real perspective shift. Because they know all these films. For us, for the western audiences, it’s new, it’s totally, “Wow, we didn’t know, how amazing, Turkish Superman, Turkish Dracula, Tarzan, ha-ha-ha,” but for the Turkish audiences, they don’t even laugh at these scenes, because they’re, “Yeah, sure, we know that. OK, so what’s the point?”
For the leftists, the intelligentsia, they hate Yeşilçam because they’re considered the opium for the masses in Turkey. Just bad films. No educated person would go and watch a Yeşilçam movie, without reason. Those of Metin Erksan, those of Yılmaz Güney, but they are not called Yeşilçam, they are “Turkish Cinema”, because Yeşilçam the label stands for “shitty films”. Not the kind of trashy films, but just the regular mainstream. What today is the TV series industry, this is what in the past was Yeşilçam. Therefore, when I then say to these people, “Look, these films are really funny,” and “Try to look at it this way…”, in the beginning they also have this inferiority complex, because, “We did this copying thing. We copied the west. We are always copying. Why is there no originality in our cultural output?” and all that. People in Turkey have these inferiority complexes against the west. In the beginning they’re like that and then they say, “Oh, but look, the creativity when they were copying it.” Then they change and then the brain begins to work and then they see something that they know already, that they have been watching, or that they have watched already, and so on. So this is what happens in Turkey.
Did you ask them to demonstrate their tricks [in Remake, Remix, Rip-Off, filmmakers demonstrate make-do dolly tracks using bars of soap nailed to up-turned table legs and hilariously dangerous electrical special effects]? They all seemed so eager and happy to show you. How did you get the idea?
They told me. They told me, “We used to have soap dollies.” And I was like, “Ah, soap dolly. So how did you do it? Could we re-enact it?” They said, “Yeah, sure. How much money do you have?” I said, “How much money do you need?” They said, “100 euros” (laughs). Just to make the rails. I said, “Yeah, sure.” I gave them a 100 euros budget. I paid the production costs and I told them to make it and that we were going to film it.
A couple of times your subjects direct you, as you’re filming them. Fantastic how they just can’t shake it. “Get a shot of that tram,” things like that.
It’s so cool that you saw this. The guy’s a director, what do you expect? He’s made 200 films, this is my first film, sure he’s going to direct me (laughs). They know the business!
Cem Kaya’s fantastic documentary Remake, Remix, Rip-Off screens at FrightFest this weekend. It’s a long-awaited delve into the wild, wild world of the Turkish Fantastic Cinema (AKA Turkish Pop Cinema, AKA Turkish Remakesploitation) and it doesn’t disappoint – long-time fans, casual observers and complete novices alike should enjoy Cem’s film. I’ve written about it a little before (see here and here), partly in response to how thin and misguided most of the coverage of these films seemed to be, and subsequently found those articles to be, consistently and by some margin, the most popular on this blog. At the time, I found sources available for research very spare, so this documentary was really kind of a feast for me – as it will be for you! I saw Remake, Remix, Rip-Off at Edinburgh International Film Festival back in June, and shortly thereafter Cem very graciously offered his time for what turned out to be a very long chat. So long that there may be a part two in the pipeline – let me know if that’s something you liked to see. NB, if you’re looking for a first-time primer on Turkish fantastic cinema, try here, this BBC article, or Joe Zadeh’s recent piece in The Guardian, featuring Cem and his film. OK, sitting comfortably? Let’s do it.
SW: How did you first come across these films?
CK: I remembered the films I had seen as a kid [in Germany], because my stepfather owned a videoshop and I grew up with these films. When my stepfather came home, he always had two tapes with him, when he came home from work. In the evenings, two films came and these two films were watched. And we had a stock of films at our place, so when we got bored, when German television was too boring, we watched a Cüneyt Arkın/Çetin İnanç film. Not knowing that these were important films. For us, it was just entertainment. And when this was over, I did other stuff and I had no interest in Turkish films at all. I also lost my Turkish. I had to re-learn Turkish in the 2000s. I was always thinking whether, for instance, the action scenes with the Matchbox cars [in lieu of stunt cars], whether I’d really seen them, or this was something out of my imagination. Because I had seen them as a kid and I also saw, as a kid, that they were Matchbox cars. I just didn’t care. I just liked it. But then later I was telling people about these films, but the video stores had closed in the 90s because of satellite technology, so people could watch Turkish television, so the video stores, they just closed and all the films in Germany were destroyed.
This is the golden video tapes.
Yeah, the gold one was a special edition. For the video company owners, and the audience, the director wasn’t important, unless it was Yılmaz Güney. But for them, it was important who was playing in it. Therefore, for us, it was always a Cüneyt Arkın film. And Çetin İnanç I just got to know when I did research on the films. In 2003, when I then began, I was saying, “Hey, do you remember these funny movies, these Turkish movies, how absolutely exaggerated they were and the excess in these movies and all these special effects? I want to do something about these movies.” That was the approach. It was maybe also a very naïve approach. When I then got into the research, getting the films and watching them again – I found many films in German libraries. In one library, in Stuttgart, there was a corner full with Turkish films. So I got these and I got into Turkish film history and I watched all these films, again, again, again, again. And then I read some academic research, because there were brilliant PhDs written about these films too, then I just broadened the topic and then I went into this serious business. Then I made a film in 2005, Do Not Listen!, which is a juxtaposition between The Exorcist and its Turkish remake, Seytan. It’s a 15-minute found footage film.
Remake, Remix, Rip-Off is really the first telling of this story. Did you feel that sense of responsibility when you were making it?
No. It took me 12 years to do research on the entire topic. When I began, I made a diploma thesis and a Masters thesis on Turkish films and especially on remakes in Turkish films. It had the same name – Remake, Remix, Rip-Off. I did so much research and there’s so much, let’s say, knowledge about these films and about the background of film history in Turkey and how you should approach the evaluation of these films to be able to understand them. And if you then go into Turkish history, then you really have to go back into 16th-17th century and look how the Ottoman Empire opened to the Western societies. Because they were in a decline, they wanted to know how Europe was so strong, and so [they said], “Let’s see what they’re offering culturally,” and technically, because it was all about weapons in the end. So what they did was they opened themselves to Europe. A lot of painters, artists and writers came to the Ottoman palaces and they were deeply influenced by these Western cultures that opened to them. But they had to translate the Western literature and, during this translation, transformations began. They had to somehow make it available for their own readers. And doing this, all this appropriation began.
When American movies or foreign movies got dubbed, it continued by dubbing them differently than the original films, or by putting belly dance scenes or mosque scenes into the films to make them look as if they were shot in Turkey. And all these strategies in the end lead to Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam [AKA The Man Who Saves The World, Çetin İnanç, 1982], which took from Star Wars. So if you know the historical background and you trace it back, and you work on the sociological level with the topic, then – now I come back to your question, whether I felt responsible to tell stories – sure, I would like to tell more about it than, “How funny, the Turks did that, and they did it under these circumstances, if they had money or there wasn’t censorship, they would have done better,” which my film is basically saying. There are so many other things I would like to tell, but I just can’t in an entertaining documentary – it’s not entertaining anymore. I then decided to put all the sociological and historical aspects away. I just put into a frame that’s really general, because I thought if somebody is interested in it, they can read it on Wikipedia, later. And so I concentrated on the filmmakers themselves because there are enough stories in the movie that pose questions about today, all these patent and copyright issues we have. Myself, as a documentary filmmaker, I’m not allowed to use all these clips if I can’t clear them. So I was sitting there with lawyers and with copyright people and I had to clear The Godfather, and I had to clear the Star Wars footage.
Did you have any particular problems, other than just the hassle of the whole thing? Anything that you couldn’t use?
No, I couldn’t use some stuff that I couldn’t clear in Turkey, because I just did not find the copyright holder of some films. But my film is produced by ZDF, which is German television and by UFA, which is one of the biggest film production companies in Germany. A lot of people in Germany asked me, “Why did you produce the film with these guys?” All the little production companies said, “We can’t make it, because it’s just too many copyright issues.” You need a budget to do a film like this and you need an organisation who can just deal with it and who have maybe also the right connections, which the UFA has. You can also say it’s fair use, but no television channel is going to give you money if you just say, “Yeah, we think it’s fair use.”
Watching it, some of the footage looks better than I’ve ever seen it before. Did you have to source original prints, or how did you find the footage?
In the 2000s, films on the internet weren’t so common and there wasn’t much about Turkish film, so I went to Istanbul. I went back and forth all the time, between Berlin and Istanbul, and I went to pirates and they made copies for me. There’s a scene that always was collecting Turkish films. Before digital technology, it was VHS and Turkish television showed a bunch of films, but for the really hardcore ones I had to contact some people like Metin Demirhan, who’s in the documentary, who wrote the book Fantastic Turkish Cinema [Fantastik Türk Sineması, with Giovanni Scognamillo]. He gave me VHS tapes and then I was in secondhand stores and doing deals with video pirates, where I take 100 or 200 films from them, and it was cheaper for me. Then there’s the Mimar Sinan [Fine Arts] University. They have an archive but you can’t get films out. You have to be there and watch the films at their monitor, so I was sitting for hours. And the more the internet developed, I had more access to the films and there were some platforms where you could trade films. And then one friend who was an archivist I could ask him for films that were hard to find and so over the years I got myself my own archive.
People are used to seeing this kind of Turkish cinema on really terrible, shitty YouTube clips, and that really contributes to how they think of it. They think it’s bad quality and poorly made and some of the poor subtitling even, which, we’re lucky to have the subtitling we did have, but because it was historically not that great, it contributes to the comedic effect.
As you say, the bad reception of the films is because of the bad copies too. All these films were bad quality, mostly in bad shape and so I pre-edited the film with these films and after the editing was done, I went to the production companies – and I had contacted them before too because I had to clear the rights in advance – because I couldn’t just begin with the film and put so much money into it and then go there and ask whether the rights could be cleared. I went to all the production companies that I knew in Istanbul and told them, “Look, I’m going to make a film using footage from your pool and ZDF and my production company, they want guarantees that we can clear the rights later.” So I got papers from them in advance, to show to the institutions here that it’s possible to clear rights in Turkey, that it’s not so difficult. And so when the editing was finished, I went to the production companies and then I demanded clean copies. But the clean copies that they were able to give me were Beta SP or DigiBeta copies – nobody gave me a 35mm copy. To be able to sell the films to private television, they had made these beta copies of the films and most of those were also in bad shape, because they were recorded in the ‘90s. So I had to deal with the mostly bad footage that I got and then, because I come from post-production, I did treatment on the pictures again. I could have shown it in a bad shape – I watched it in a bad shape. When I was a kid, I watched it from VHS and it was just bad. But I wanted to create the feeling that somebody in Turkey in the ‘60s or ‘70s would have had when he’s gone to the cinemas. Because in the cinemas, the quality was brilliant.
Do you think there’s any chance that whole films will get that treatment?
Classics are being restored. The problem with restoring, digitally, is that they over-restore them. They’re too clean, because they want to make them good for HD TV, because they’re selling them to private television. This is the big problem – restoring them properly, keeping some of the dirt, not to over-clean them. Also, most of the films are shot 4:3 or 5:4 and now to make it suitable for television, so they just cut them, they make them bigger, the top and bottom are cut off. It’s letterboxed, but there’s parts missing. Generations later, when they are watching the Turkish classics, they’re just going to watch these versions and they are censored, too, because there’s television censorship regarding alcohol and cigarettes. They were censored before and then they get censored for television. So we always have these over-restored, totally clean, letterboxed and double- and triple-censored films. This is not the way it should be, but putting 20,000 euros into the restoration means you have to get 200,000 euros for selling it to television. So you need a film preservation fund or funding to be able to restore them properly.
Those films are maybe not so well-regarded in the West because they’re so specific to Turkey.
Yeah, exactly. Maybe. There are some that went to festivals too, but the western audiences always liked the kind of films where people suffer in, because when they look into the third world, they have this western centralised view and they always need films that are dealing with human rights issues.
Yes, like Yılmaz Güney’s films. So you have the so-called trash on one end, and the Güneys on the other.
Güney is a really nice example because Güney himself was coming from the action and trash genre and he was one of the biggest action stars in Turkey, but in the cheapest films you can imagine.
Çetin İnanç talks about him in your film. They knew each other.
Yes, they knew each other because Çetin İnanç worked as a director’s assistant or production assistant on many of Güney’s films. In the Yeşilçam [literally “Green Pine”, equivalent to “Hollywood” in American cinema] era, auteur film or arthouse film and trash film or mainstream film, whatever you may call it, wasn’t separated like it is today, because it was the same people who did both. And I think this is the interesting part in Yeşilçam, that it was an industry and sometimes the industry allowed you as a director to make an arthouse film. Imagine it like this – somebody comes to you, a producer from the distribution area comes and says, “I want to have 12 films from you,” and he says, “I want to have three films that are like these American movies but I want to have these Turkish stars. And then I want to have three comedies with this or that comedian. And then I want to have one religious film because Ramadan is approaching.” And then he says, “And then there’s one film, you can do whatever you want.” This one film, you can do whatever you want, is a door for possibilities. Because then if someone does something that hits the audiences, then there is another door.
So next time they say, “Can I have three of those kind of films?”
Exactly. Because, all the formulas they have, people get bored of them. A formula, a story like Wuthering Heights, you can tell it maybe 10-12 years and then even the dumbest audience will say, “Come on, we’ve seen that film.” So then you have to change it or do something else and therefore, much more than the TV industry today, they had the freedom to also do some films they wanted. And then you see, when you watch some Turkish classic movies, “Hey, it’s the same scriptwriter, it’s the same director, it’s the same actors,” but the movie is a different movie because they then do what they want to. But also in the frame of their talents and the technical possibilities. But then you see in one of these “good” films, like Yılmaz Güney’s marvellous film from 1972 [Ağıt], you had also Italo-Western soundtracks in the film, because the strategy is the same, it’s how the industry works. They just don’t see any copyright issues because the soundtrack is not registered in Turkey. They don’t even import it. They go to Italy, buy the soundtrack, come back, so it’s not published in Turkey. For not being published in Turkey, it’s not protected in Turkey.
So they can feel free to use it as many times as possible.
Yeah, exactly. Because the films go through censorship twice. There’s the police, the military, the ministry of culture and a bunch of people watching these movies before they get the stamp to be allowed to be shown in Turkish cinemas. So, from the point of view of the filmmakers, if there’s nobody saying, “But, stop, here you’ve used the James Bond soundtrack, this is not allowed,” then, for them, it’s just legal. Everybody says, “How could they? How dare they? They were stealing,” No, they’re not stealing. They’re just using what was in the public domain.
Did you speak to everyone you wanted to?
No, because many people had died. There was one, if you ask me, very important director called Yılmaz Duru, and Yılmaz Duru is also a visionary guy and it’s amazing the films he does. They seem to be regular, normal films and then when you get into them, there is such a madness in them, and after 30 minutes, the film changes and becomes a different film, the script changes and all of a sudden you’re in something different and after one hour, he changes again the script and you’re in another tale. The guy is just… I think this guy isn’t where he deserves to be in Turkish cinema history and I would like to do more research on him. And he’s not even in my film! He’s just in the thanks. He’s the last name in my list of thank yous. He died. I was just too blind and too dumb while he was living, because I was in Turkey while he was living, just to get the idea, or I just hadn’t seen his film yet, to get an interview with this guy. And when I was enlightened, he had died, unfortunately. So I went there and filmed his funeral. So half of the time I was there, I was filming funerals.
Çetin İnanç’s last line, saying that he wants to speak now because he’ll be dead soon, was that the underlying impetus for all these guys to speak to you?
Yeah, I think so. The most important reason we got Çetin İnanç to speak is that we knew somebody who was very close to him, the person that made the book about him. It’s very well written because she is a Turkish journalist and she is his cousin. It’s called The Jet Director [Jet Rejisör Çetin İnanç]. But nobody before had a recorded interview with Çetin İnanç, because he’s just hiding. When you call him, he says, “Oh, he is not here.” He doesn’t reveal his identity. He just doesn’t want to because he knows that people approach him to make fun of his films. In the 90s, when college students had discovered films like The Man Who Saved The World for the first time, they had screenings at the Boğaziçi University. At one of these screenings, for Malkoçoğlu Kara Korsan (Süreyya Duru, Remzi Jöntürk, 1968), they had a sign saying “The Cinema Club of Boğaziçi University presents with shame…” This is what I’m talking about. Because, in Turkey, all the films had “proudly presents…” And Cüneyt Arkın was outraged, “How could you do this?” So the students were thinking, “Ha-ha, funny movie,” but this was just inappropriate and maybe it tells you something about the reception of these films. They said, “We Turks, we also had an Ed Wood, and here is the film, and it’s funny, funny, funny…” It’s just the funny aspect they’re after. I think this is a big problem.
It’s the same problem internationally. It’s kind of a double-edge sword because that kind of interest spreads the word about them. “Oh, my god, there’s this crazy film that uses footage of Star Wars,” or “There’s this version of Superman that uses James Bond music.” And that makes people interested but unless there’s a follow-through from it, it’s a real disservice.
Everyone talks about the wooden sword [in Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam]. Cüneyt Arkın said once in an interview, “There were times when we didn’t even have that. We did it with our bare hands.” And that’s the spirit I’m talking about. And this had a lot to do with politics and with censorship and also money, the possibilities of making film. And also with this unjust battle against the Americans, because, imagine, back then in 1982, 83, shortly after the military coup in Turkey, all the cinemas were flooded with the American movies all of a sudden. So what chance had Yeşilçam cinema to fight against it? They just made the remakes, or they stole, as in the case of The Man Who Saves The World, they stole it literally.
They stole the Star Wars print.
Yes, and imagine the people who watched Star Wars back then in Turkey and Istanbul – they watched it with these scenes missing! So the context is important. He’s stealing from the cultural imperialists, in effect, and taking from the rich and showing to his poor audience. This is really important to understand, because the very same year, in 1982, Yılmaz Güney gets the big prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Yol, The Road, which is a film against the coup, against the American imperialist, against Turkish traditions, against all that is wrong in Turkey. And then the auteur cinema lovers applaud him and they give him, together with Costa-Gravas, the prize. In the very same year, the film that is considered the best film in Turkish film history, Yol – for years it was the Turkish film and when people talked about Turkish cinema, they were talking about Yol – and then the movie which represents the worst of Turkish film, The Man Who Saves The World, which is on the list of the worst films ever made, they were made in the same year and the directors were friends. I’ll tell you another story and you’ll understand where I’m leading this.
There is a film called Hudutların Kanunu by [Ömer] Lütfi Akad. Lütfi Akad, one of the greatest Turkish film directors ever. It is one of the films in which Yılmaz Güney appears as a serious actor, and not as an action actor. During this film, Yılmaz Güney gets arrested again, for some of his writings, I think. They were in Adanda in the south of Turkey where Yılmaz Güney had his base, and they had mules in Adana, white mules that they had filmed. Çetin İnanç was a production assistant on this movie and when Yılmaz Güney got arrested in Adana, they had to go back to Istanbul, but there were no mules in Istanbul, they just couldn’t find mules. So, what did they do? Again, it was the vision of Çetin İnanç. He said, “We take donkeys, we paint them white and from far away, we film them as if they were mules.” So painting the donkeys white and filming them from afar is exactly the same thing as taking Star Wars footage and putting it in your film. It’s the same strategy. You see where it comes from. It’s, “How do I get my film completed?”
So Yılmaz Güney does the best film ever, Çetin İnanç does the worst film and it’s done in the same year. One is an important film because it points to the critical things in Turkish society, the other one is a science fiction film, but the subversive thing in the other one is that it steals from the cultural imperialists. These things, I can’t tell in my film. I don’t know whether people sense it, or whether what is there is enough, but I would like to put these things in a book maybe or a blog or whatever, to make them available for people, because these thoughts matter. I spoke to around 100 people and each interview was at least 1.5 hours. These interviews are still here, so I have to do something with those too. There’s so much information and valuable things and it’s oral history. There are no other people, neither in Turkey nor abroad, because they don’t know, who evaluate Turkish cinema in way I think it should be evaluated.
How do you feel about the term “Remakesploitation”?
I don’t know. I think the term is better than “Turksploitation”!
I think maybe “Fantastic Cinema” is more appropriate.
After screening at FrightFest, Remake, Remix, Rip-Off is on its way to Texas for Fantastic Fest in October, where they’ve built a strand of Turkish Fantastic Cinema around it. After that, a cinema release in Germany and Turkey, a German TV screening and eventually VOD and DVD.
Matchbox Cineclub recently presented Claude Chabrol’s Les Noce Rouges (1973), at a special screening introduced by Graeme Macrae Burnet. For the screening I was able to source a trailer for Chabrol’s rarely-seen (indeed, barely made) adaptation of La Disparation d’Adèle Bedeau (see above). An excerpt from Burnet’s afterword to Raymond Brunet’s novel (published by Saraband Books) explains the background in more detail:
“…Claude Chabrol, doyen of the cinematic New Wave of the early 1960s, came across a copy in a secondhand bookshop in Paris. The director was very taken with the novel’s portrayal of provincial life… A script was swiftly written, but French cinema was at that time in thrall to the flashier talent of Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix, and the downbeat realism of La Disparition d’Adèle Bedeau was hopelessly out of step with the times. It was only when Chabrol passed the script to Isabelle Adjani, star of Subway and One Deadly Summer, that the project got off the ground… The film was a far greater critical and commercial success than the original novel had ever been… Predictably, Brunet hated it.”
Unfortunately, despite its initial success, the film itself remains out of circulation and, barring a solitary 1994 screening on UK television – as part of Antoine de Caunes’ Cinéma Canular season – wholly unseen by British audiences.
Everyone knows Quentin Tarantino likes to moonlight as an actor occasionally, but did you know one of his earliest roles was on an episode of Golden Girls? You did? What about the episode of Margaret Cho’s sitcom All-American Girl where he pays “homage” to Christopher Walken’s Pulp Fiction monologue? See that too, eh? Well, then how about his appearance in a PC game devised by Steven Spielberg? Whatever your familiarity with the deep cuts in QT’s CV, now you can find them all in one handy compendium, since Matchbox Cineclub have put together an edit of all Quentin Tarantino’s acting roles, from Golden Girls to Girl 6, from Duck Dodgers to Django Unchained, from his earliest self-directed role to his latest for the maestro Peter Bogdanovich. Enjoy!
Here’s the full run-down:
My Best Friend’s Birthday (Quentin Tarantino, 1987)
The Golden Girls “Sophia’s Wedding: Part 1” (1988)
Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
Eddie Presley (Jeff Burr, 1992)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Sleep With Me (Rory Kelly, 1994)
Somebody To Love (Alexandre Rockwell, 1994)
All-American Girl “Pulp Sitcom” (1995)
Destiny Turns on the Radio (Jack Baran, 1995)
Desperado (Robert Rodriguez, 1995)
Dance Me to the End of Love (Aaron A Goffman, 1995)
Four Rooms: The Man From Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (Robert Rodriguez, 1996)
Girl 6 (Spike Lee, 1996)
Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair (1996)
Little Nicky (Steven Brill, 2000)
Alias “The Box” (2002)
Duck Dodgers “Master & Disaster” (2005)
Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
Planet Terror (Robert Rodriguez, 2007)
Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike, 2007)
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
She’s Funny That Way (Peter Bogdanovich, 2015)
Matchbox Cineclub’s August screening, presented in association with Alliance Française de Glasgow, will be Claude Chabrol’s Wedding In Blood (Les Noces Rouges, 1973). It’s a rare chance to see Claude Chabrol’s classic portrait of an amour fou with deadly consequences in provincial France, starring Stéphane Audran and Michel Piccoli. The screening will be introduced by Graeme Macrae Burnet, author of The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau, a literary thriller set in the small town of Saint-Louis in the Alsace.
The screening takes place at 7pm on Thurday 20th August, in the gallery area of The Old Hairdressers, Glasgow. Admission is £3 via Eventbrite. This month’s screening is by arrangement with Artedis.
This is the eighth screening in Matchbox Cineclub’s monthly series at The Old Hairdressers, which takes place on the third Thursday of every month. Previous screenings there have been The Beaver Trilogy (dir. Trent Harris, 2001; 1979-85), Stunt Rock (dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1980) in association with Glasgow Film Festival, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (William Klein, 1966), Cecil B Demented (John Waters, 2000), Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (Çetin Inanç, 1982), Me And You And Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005) and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (WD Richter, 1984).
Our July screening at The Old Hairdressers will be WD Richter’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984), an inter-dimensional sci-fi-action-adventure-rock-n-roll-comedy-romance – pretty much the ultimate 1980s cult film. The screening takes place at 7pm on Thursday 16/07, upstairs in the gallery area of the bar.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) stars Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai, a physicist-neurosurgeon-martial arts master-secret agent-test pilot-rock star. With The Hong Kong Cavaliers, a motley crue of scientists, engineers and special agents (including Clancy Brown and Jeff Goldblum) who double as his backing band, Buckaroo must battle to save the world from the alien Red Lectroids (led by Christopher Lloyd) and his human nemesis, the brain-fried Dr Lizardo (John Lithgow). Directed by WD Richter (writer of the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China), Buckaroo Banzai is utterly unique, endlessly quotable, ridiculously enjoyable and just one of our absolute favourites.
The Facebook event page can be found here.
Buckaroo Banzai is the seventh screening in our monthly series at The Old Hairdressers, which takes place on the third Thursday of every month. Previous screenings there have been The Beaver Trilogy (dir. Trent Harris, 2001; 1979-85), Stunt Rock (dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1980) in association with Glasgow Film Festival, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (dir. William Klein, 1966), Cecil B Demented (dir. John Waters, 2000), Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (dir. Çetin Inanç, 1982) and Me And You And Everyone We Know (dir. Miranda July, 2005).
Going Clear (Dir. Alex Gibney, 2014) is screening at GFT until Thursday 2nd July. My accompanying programme note will be available at screenings – you can download the physical version here and there’s an online version at GFT’s blog here. GFT archives all its programme notes online here.
Some bonus material that didn’t make the final cut:
Scientology today list 13 bases in the UK, including the Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence Scientology Edinburgh.
Scientology ministers were authorised to perform wedding ceremonies by the Scottish registrar general in 2007. In 2013, the UK Supreme Court then ruled that a London Church of Scientology chapel was a “place of meeting for religious worship” and that henceforth could be used for marriages, creating uncertainty as to the future legal (particularly tax) status of Scientology in the UK.
The 2011 census recorded 188 declared Scientologists in Scotland (just above 171 Satanists, below 245 Druids and by comparison to 11,746 Jedi Knights).
At more or less the same time as the Granada documentaries on Scientology (footage, on YouTube here and here, featured in Going Clear), and the publication, in Britain, of Paulette Cooper’s exposé, The Scandal of Scientology, author Neil Gaiman was refused entry to his local prep school because of his family’s association with the religion (his father was a spokesperson). In August 1968, Gaiman was interviewed for BBC Radio’s World at Weekend, when the 7-year-old explained to Keith Graves that Scientology is ‘an applied philosophy dealing with the study of knowledge.’
In the spring of 1968, William Burroughs spent a week at the Scottish Scientology Centre in Edinburgh.
World Gone Wild (dir Lee H Katzin, 1988), a post-apocalyptic B-movie, stars Adam Ant as Derek Abernathy, a murderous cult leader who preaches from a book entitled The Wit and Wisdom of Charles Manson. That book was retitled, in fact, after lawyers for Scientology got wind of the original choice – L Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics – and paid a visit to the producers (‘We have no idea how they heard about those scenes,’ a representative was quoted at the time).
Louis Theroux is also planning his first theatrical documentary, Stairway To Heaven, about Scientology, whose lawyers promptly informed Theroux that the church, not coincidentally, was producing one on him.
If you have any thoughts on Going Clear or my note, I’d love to hear them – post a comment here or on GFT’s blog (or you can even email me here).