Will Cannes champ ‘Winter Sleep’ break Oscars curse for Turkey?

“Winter Sleep” may have won the top prize at the Cannes film festival but it faces an uphill battle on the road to the Oscars. “Winter Sleep” is the fourth film directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan that Turkey has submitted for Oscars consideration. Despite his other three all being winners at Cannes — “Distant” (2003) got the Grand Prix (second place) and Best Actor; “Three Monkeys” (2008) took Best Director and “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” also won the Grand Prix — all were snubbed by the academy.

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“Winter Sleep,” which tells the story of a wealthy property and hotel owner and his family on a mountainside, clocks in at three hours and sixteen minutes. It is not an easy watch. Last year’s Palme D’Or winner, “Blue is the Warmest Color,” was also impossibly long, albeit 17 minutes shorter than this one, but was titillating in nature. In place of unrelenting teenage lesbian sex scenes, “Winter Sleep” features repetitive conversations about middle-aged hypocrisy.

That makes it sound almost like last year’s Foreign Language winner “The Great Beauty.” However,  that Italian film was largely a meditation on the emptiness of extravagance. And by depicting said extravagance, it meant that viewers could have their cake and eat it too.

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In the mid-2000s, the Foreign Language category came under fire for snubbing grittier fare in favor of crowd-pleasers. More recently, a new voting system has resulted in recognition at the opposite end of the spectrum. Critical favorite “A Separation” triumphed over the more traditional “Monsieur Lazhar” in 2011. The next year, “Amour” was embraced by the academy at large in categories like Best Picture, while France’s entry for Foreign-Language Film “The Intouchables” was snubbed.

This is not to say that “Winter Sleep” is no fun. The Vancouver International Film Festival audience of which I was a part became uproarious at regular intervals. The question is if they would have had the patience for the film if they were viewing it on DVD like academy members and had not waited in a line that wrapped around three sides of the block.

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