Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Remake Remix Rip Off

Turkish Delights

Remake Remix Rip Off -
About Copy Culture &
Turkish Pop Cinema

Turkey/Germany 2014
Directed by Cem Kaya
DVD Region 0

Just a quick word here about Cem Kaya’s wonderful documentary movie Remake Remix Rip Off - About Copy Culture & Turkish Pop Cinema. This is not so much a look at the various ‘homage factors’ inherent in Turkish cinema (which is in no means restricted to Turkey anyway, although their variants are often somewhat less subtle than those made in many countries) as it is an overview of Turkish cinema over time and also culminating with a look at the current situation with television, where billions are spent on many hundreds of new TV shows every year. Two hour long episodes shot in 6 days and preceded each week by a one hour ‘previously on’ section on Turkish cinema... yeah, that would probably kill me, to be honest. But this film also gives you a rough idea of why that situation has come to be in the first place.

There are interviews with a lot of actors, directors and technicians from the history of Turkish cinema and these are all intercut with various themed sections that Kaya has used to structure the documentary, to give a very good introduction for those unfamiliar or only slightly ‘in the know’ about various films made over there. He also uses some nice repeat structures throughout, which push his points (although, while I appreciated this technique, perhaps in some areas the montages are perhaps a little too long). This is sometimes achieved, like in the pre-credits sequence, where the various directors are telling the camera how there are only 31 or 34 or 37 etc original stories (now I always thought it was only four) and using this as a justification, or at least explanation of the reasons why the films often seem carbon copies of themselves (let alone their Hollywood counterparts like Some Like It Hot or The Wizard Of Oz). Which, again, is perhaps something which should be recognised as symptomatic of any large scale production of an art form like a motion picture in any country but, yeah, it feels like a lot of the people interviewed in this are on the defensive, rather than pointing out that Hollywood and various other countries’ cultures do exactly the same thing (and don’t get me started on silly US remakes of J-Horror and assorted French comedies).

The montages of exactly the same themes, songs, lines of dialogue etc in close juxtaposition certainly show a very formulaic way of making the movies... which absolutely everyone being interviewed would agree on, it seems to me and, amusing as it is (and it really is, I had a good time silently mocking what was shown), it really wouldn’t take much to pick on, say, Hollywood’s current output and do exactly the same thing.

Important events are addressed, such as a big demonstration by actors and crew demanding health and safety on the sets and tales about a director planning and writing his film in jail for 11 years as it was being given to others, piecemeal, to film... and even the director of the highly censored and changed Turkish version of Bonnie And Clyde being beaten up by the police in jail for 15 days because of his creation. It all makes for an entertaining but, also very scary, informative text on the nature of censorship in Turkey, even when the pornographic sex films came into play and everything carnal was allowed... unless it got complained about for some reason. Indeed, even normal films were getting sex scenes from other films randomly spliced into the prints to spice the films up and draw audiences at one point. I guess that’s a case of splice n’ spice then. The ending of one of the notorious, master criminal (or should that be Kriminal?) Kilink films, where he praises the intelligent Turkish police for capturing him and bringing him to justice is, well, very telling about the sad state of affairs at the time, for sure.

The interviews conducted are very interesting and often reveal the incredibly inhumane and cheap working conditions under which these people were trying to create their art. From the small amount of film issued for every production to the bizarre story of how the black and white films were dyed or tinted under the guise of a new colour process and how the distributors were found out when, after a few days in cinemas, the colours all wore off and the films were back to standard monochrome again.

My favourite section, for obvious reasons if you know me in person or read this blog with any regularity, was the moment when the sound man took us to see his big soundtrack album collection, in a couple of shelves of a cupboard. There were no hard copyright laws in Turkey at the time (and it’s almost as lax now, apparently) as is evidenced by the amount of rip offs or amalgamated characters in Turkish cinema... in such versions as Turkish Superman, Turkish Jaws, Turkish Star Wars, Turkish Rambo, Turkish Death Wish, Turkish Exorcist, Turkish Rocky and so on and this also extended to the soundtracks, which were needle dropped by all of Turkish move makers, more or less, from the vinyls found in this one guy’s cupboard. So The Godfather, The Sicilian Clan, Enter The Dragon, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Star Wars etc are all found here. An interesting moment was when he pulls out a copy of the old New American Orchestra cover album which passed for the closest thing to a Blade Runner soundtrack release back in the day... and he tells us that this one was a pretty useless album for trying to find good music to needle drop onto the film. If you’ve seen enough Turkish cinema you’ll probably find this section very interesting. I remember the first time I saw 3 Devadam, aka Captain America And Santo Versus Spider-Man and I realised almost all the music in the film was lifted from the vinyl releases of the fight music from Shaft’s Big Score and a track from Diamonds Are Forever. So, yeah, it’s nice to actually see the guy holding up the various records he used to use to ‘score’ these things.

Remake Remix Rip Off - About Copy Culture & Turkish Pop Cinema is a pretty good introduction to this culture’s film output and if you are interested in cinema from other countries (and why wouldn’t you be if you’re reading this blog?) then this movie is a pretty enlightening portrait of their national cinema. I don’t necessarily agree with all that is said in it... one Turkish film fan’s appraisal of some of the films, such as the film known over here as Turkish Star Wars is, frankly, ludicrous... but it doesn’t take the easy track of pulling the industry apart and I was quite upset when one of the very prolific directors on here (they all directed hundreds of movies) compares Turkish cinema production to what goes on in Hollywood and decides he’s never really made any proper films. That’s just a wrong conclusion on so many levels and I wish he’d realise that he has left a rich legacy, for those who seek it out and can find it. An entertaining and illuminating documentary... give this one a go.

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