Tulpan

"Excellent"

Tulpan Review


Sporting a pair of ears that might make Dumbo jealous, we first meet Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov) on his way to meet his would-be bride and her parents. Dressed in his pressed Navy outfit, he speaks of his future with starry eyes and feet untethered to the ground, unlike his gruff brother-in-law and lifetime sheep-herder Ondas (Ondas Besikbasov) and very much like his buffoonish friend Boni (Tolepbergen Baisakalov). The bride refuses, citing his enormous ears. The young bride's name is Tulpan, which translates to tulip and gives this marvelous, utterly unclassifiable comedic object its title.

The very setting of Sergei Dvortsevoy's film, his first narrative feature, is meant to polarize and isolate. Living in a shared yurt with his sister (Samal Esljamova) and Ondas, Asa sets into a hazy depression as Ondas continually demeans his admittedly inept attempts at sheep-herding and winning Tulpan's heart. Filming in southern Kazakhstan, Dvortsevoy's home-country, the director submerges the viewer in the empty space of Betpak Dala and the rituals and day-to-days of its inhabitants, "inhabitants" which are relegated to Asa's family and Tulpan's.

If a work like Kiyoshi Kurosawa's recent Tokyo Sonata deployed globalization and the death of tradition as a psychological plague, the forge for modernity finds a more subtle and gentile parable in Tulpan. As Asa ponders whether his place is on the steppe with his family or in the city with Boni, Tulpan has already set her sights on a university rather than a piece of the steppe, already boasting a disregard for traditional roles. Dvortsevoy has made the decision between modern culture vs. tradition startlingly unsentimental; if the choice is between the excruciatingly off-key singing of Asa's niece or the nauseating reggae coming from Boni's radio, the answer isn't completely clear.

Part romantic comedy and part ethnographic drama, Dvortsevoy allows for one moment of jaw-dropping reality as Asa, beleaguered by a failed second attempt to win Tulpan's heart, helps to deliver a lamb from a wounded mother. The herder's life isn't something that comes easy to Asa, and it's his extraordinary wanting to take up this life that helps make Tulpan so devastatingly poetic. Asa is, for lack of a better word, a dope, but he has conviction and doesn't immediately think that living in the city will solve his obvious faults. At first glance, one might be struck dumb by the naturalism that Dvortsevoy has infused his characters with, but on thorough inspection, these are staggeringly intelligent, underplayed performances.

Like Carlos Reygadas' miraculous Silent Light, Tulpan shows the minor miracles and small catastrophes of steppe life with humbling devotion.



Tulpan

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 9th April 2009

Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Sergei Dvortsevoy

Producer: , Thanassis Karathanos

Also starring:

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