Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder

Turkey's 1972 thriller, Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder (aka Aska susayanlar seks ve cinayet, directed by Memet Aslan) is a pleasurable novelty. It is a thrill to see another country's take on familiar genres and formats, adding their unique cultural stamp.  The fact that Thirsty for Love is from a country that I know so little about makes it especially delightful.  I know nothing about the Turkish film industry's output form the early 1970s.

At heart, it is a melodramatic,  giallo, from Turkey.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a country like Turkey can only make movies featuring men and women in elaborate, period style clothes, replete with lots of exterior shots featuring majestic and beautiful scenery, and people riding horses.

Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder is a contemporary, urban film.  The characters drive cars, use telephones, and live in stylish, even elegant apartments with modern appliances.  There are no mustachioed men dressed like Seljuk warriors on lathered horses.  There is nothing windswept about these people or their lives. I don't know about life in Turkey in the 1970s, but  the movie makes it look pretty cool.  
Dr. and Mrs. Matin's apartment
And it is fun to watch.  The wild visual style and fuzzy, guitared sound track is very much like the Italian giallo. Italian gialli films are not usually my cup of Turkish coffee.  I know this puts me at odds with the rest of the world, but the few I have seen are slow, relying more on style than substance, and frankly don't make much sense in the end. Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder  moves at a fast pace. The plot is sticky as taffy; the the story unfolds, it seems to stick on every thing. It probably makes less sense than the other gialli I have seen, but because of its unique origin and the fast pace the story unfolds, (the whole movie is less than 59 minutes) it was an hour well spent.

Thirsty for Love, Sex, and Murder does not shy away from dark sexual themes and has a high degree of  graphic violence, another giallo trademark. The movie begins with the brutal murder of a female hitchhiker. Trapped in the woods, the victim pleads with her attacker not to rape her as she slowly disrobes. He slashes at her with his razor. As she screams in terror and pain, director Mehmet Aslan inter-cuts her gaping mouth with the arrival of a plane in such a way that it appears to fly down the victim's throat.

Mine's arrival is inter-cut with the first murder

Mine (Meral Zeren, one of the most beautiful women in world cinema)
Mine (Meral Zeren), wife of handsome Dr. Matin, is returning from touring Europe. She is the center of Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder; the other characters fly around her, trying to trap her, to rescue her or to simply win her love. The couple are stopped by the police and told a woman has been attacked. Before dying, the victim said her attacker had a scar on his cheek. Mine flashes back to her attack, when she wounded her rapist by cutting his cheek.
 Mine's graphically depicted attack at night in the pouring rain.

Mine is invited to a party by her friend, Oya (Eva Bender).  Oya's blonde hair and swinging, "free love" lifestyle are the opposite of Mine's dark skin and hair, and her frigidity (a result of her trauma- part of the reason she married  her husband is because he confessed he is impotent).  At the party, Oya introduces Mine to good looking, swarthy party boy, Yilmaz, (Kadir Inanir). Yilmaz  instantly falls in love with Mine and vows to give up his hedonistic lifestyle in the hopes of earning her love, despite her being married.  He is one of Oya's lovers, and later, when he rebuffs her advances, she accuses him of being after Mine's fortune.  

Oya (Eva Bender) and Yilmaz (Kadir Inanir) are both interested in Mine, but for what purpose?

A glance from handsome Yilmaz causes these women to
 spontaneously rip each other's clothes off

At the flamboyantly filmed party, revelers throw themselves at the camera from a forest of legs 
Tarik's (Yildirim Gencer) groovy outfits rival Mine's for psychedelic, seventies' fashion.  
She also encounters scarred creep Tarik (Yildirim Gencer), who may be the killer and her rapist and stalker. He tells her he is glad she is back and will see more of her. When she tries to walk away, he threatens her with a broken champagne bottle.
Dr. Matin arrives just in time to rescue Mine by slapping the crap out of Tarik.
All this in just the first 15 minutes!  But things don't slow down.  Mine and Yilmaz become lovers, Oya is attacked when she attempts to pay off Mine's blackmailer and Tarik is found beheaded.
Nina  very erotic dream of making love to Tarik
The murky plot becomes gets murkier from here on.  There is a conspiracy against Mine, but to what end?  The police inspector is clueless.  Yilmaz woos Mine with a romantic meal and dancing, for lunch, then sex.  She leaves her impotent husband Yilmaz.  They run away together to a ski resort, where she has a breakdown and is sedated by someone.  He tells Yilmaz to call a doctor (he just gave her a shot, but isn't a doctor?).  Yilmaz has no choice but to call her ex-husband, who needs  to be picked up.
Tarik, meanwhile, has returned from the dead to finish off Mine while she is vulnerable, inexplicably making it look like a suicide. But is Mine really dead or is this part of a larger plan?  The answers come fast and quick and all is revealed after a motorcycle chase and shoot out with four brand new characters.
In Turkey, there is often romantic dancing with lunch.
Mine often appears framed or boxed in

The lovers try to escape across the desert to the ski resort

Evidently in Turkey, one doesn't have to be a doctor to give someone a shot

No matter the crime, Hamit Yildirim investigates.

Who the hell are these guys?
Little sense is made, but Thirsty for Love, Sex and Death is fun and fascinating to watch, both stylistically and for a look at an undiscovered environment.

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