‘The Friend’: a look into reality that surrounds us

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Known as Çirkin Kral (the Ugly King) of Turkish cinema, actor YIlmaz Guney was also a novelist, scenarist and director. In 1974, he made “ArkadaI” (The Friend), his final directorial effort in Turkey. After that, other directors would make films based on his scripts and under his direction. (He directed one final film in 1983, “Duvar” (The Wall), while living in exile in France.)

Guney once said, “We should look at, grasp and reflect the reality that surrounds us on the streets that we hustle through every day.” Thus, as a screenwriter and director, all of his films portrayed the daily conditions of ordinary people.

“ArkadaI” is about two friends who grew up in a small, dusty, barren village in Anatolia and attended university together. Azem (played by Guney) stayed around to work on constructing roads to benefit the forsaken people of this rural world, while Cemil (Kerim AfIar) left for Istanbul to make his fortune, becoming a successful businessman — a complacent member of the bourgeoisie. Then, Azem visits him at his summer seaside villa where Cemil swims, drinks, eats, plays cards and cheats on his wife he, in turn, is cheated on. Azem is appalled at the decadent, empty, meaningless life that Cemil leads, and the film stands as a strong indictment of revolutionary youth who have abandoned their political consciousness, turning apathetic as middle age approaches. The two friends visit the village of their youth where Cemil is appalled by the misery he sees and promises Azem that he will change and asks his friend to shake hands, but Azem says he can only shake after he sees the change, as he seems doubtful real change will occur, realizing that their class differences make their relationship impossible. The two drive back to the villa where Cemil’s experiences in his home village may or may not prove to be too much for him.

By the way, years before Istanbul became the number one tourist destination in the world, back when it was a truly beautiful city, before construction obstructed the view of the ancient wonders of the Golden Horn, before the government exiled the city’s gypsies to some dump near the Bulgarian border, guide books for backpacking tourists recommended one particular treat for the aenturous: Go to a gypsy neighborhood and, for a small fee, a young gypsy girl would do a dance for you and your friends. Being the upstanding and moral guy that I am from a country that would never allow such a thing in any way, shape or form, I never availed myself of this particular Turkish delight. However, for you perverts out there, you can watch the two friends in the film partaking in this treat at a gypsy home where a family provides food, drink and a dancing girl who has to be at least 16 years old.

I liked the film very much and recommend it highly. Guney turns in a penetrating performance as the infallible Azem, while Azra Balkan and Melike DemiraI as Cemil’s wife and sister-in-law, respectively, give excellent performances.

The last screening of “ArkadaI,” as part of the 33rd Istanbul Film Festival’s “What A Pair” section, is on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Istanbul Modern Cinema.

(CihanToday’s Zaman) C