Keloglan vs. the Black Prince
This list occasionally throws up movies that I never thought I’d end up watching, not down to simple things like it “stars” Mariah Carey, or it was “directed” by Uwe Boll, but more due to the fact that it’s of a genre I’ve never even thought about searching for, and this time it was a Turkish comedy film Keloğlan Kara Prense Karşı. Now even though the Turkish word for against was strikingly similar to the British slang word for toilet, khazi, a bad omen for sure, we had to step in unknown territory and take our chances.
Keloglan (Mehmet Ali Erbil) has long Goldilocks-like hair (and a different name, but I didn’t quite catch that) and wants to marry the sultans daughter, Can Kiz (Petek Dincoz). When she is threatened by a dragon, Keloglan and The Black Prince, Kara Prens (Ozcan Deniz) argue about who should save her. Eventually the prince knocks himself out, leaving to Keloglan cut the dragons head off, but he doesn’t realise that this dragon has two heads, the other of which promptly burns all his hair off. A year later Keloglan is still trying to marry Can Kiz, but she doesn’t want to go through with this marriage so her father, the Sultan (Aysen Gruda) keeps setting him tasks to do before he can marry her. His latest task is for Keloglan to get the belt of a vicious giant. So instead of going to a store that caters to the tall or portly gentleman, and just buying a belt, Keloglan sets off with his friend Cankusoglan (Bulent Polat) on this latest adventure, whilst The Black Prince attempts to stop him. Keloglan is soon joined by Bal Kiz (Ahu Turkpence), a woman who is in love with him, but who is disguised as a boy (or possibly just a simple slug balancer), as they encounter various fairytale characters and try to complete this latest mission to win the princesses heart.
With the inclusion of all the various fairytale characters, including a dancing Robin Hood (see the pic above. I think I may be using that as an insult on peoples Facebook statuses from now on) and the Evil Queen from Snow White (who is The Black Prince’s sister in this movie), who uses her magic mirror to find those prettier than her so she can wipe them out, this movie reminded me a lot of a live-action Shrek. However Shrek was a brilliant parody of the numerous fairytales, and this movie really didn’t quite manage this for me. I think the reason Kelogan failed as a comedy for me falls into three distinct reasons, so I feel that I should address them separately.
1) Lost in Translation
Keloglan means bald boy in Turkish, and is a famous character in Turkish literature. This of course explains why all the other characters from fairy stories/folklore are in the movie, but it doesn’t really help the viewer who has no idea of either Turkish stories, or the Turkish language. Now I can’t fault the filmmakers for that. They weren’t setting out to please some random guy from Essex who knows nothing of their culture, so I only really mention this as part of why any of the more subtle humour may have passed over my head.
This is nothing to do with the movie, but I thought I’d tell you about this as it’s fairytale related and it does illustrate to the point I’m making: The fairytale Little Red Riding Hood suffered from this problem. Whilst the story is easy to follow no matter what language it’s translated into, it did lose its humour when it was translated from the French. When Red is remarking about the size of the wolf’s various body parts, she says what large legs the wolf has. The wolf replies “All the better to run with, my dear”. To run was/is French slang to have sex with. Hardly the most high-brow humour, but at least it keeps the adults amused when reading to the kids.
2) I rarely find comedy from outside the UK or USA/Canada funny
Again, I’m not sure if this is a problem of mine, and a somewhat narrow view on the world, but I just don’t get international humour. I think it may have something to do with the language barrier again, and the fact that I probably only pick up on fart gags and slapstick, and miss out on the subtle wordplay and wit that is probably there in a lot of comedies. Somehow I doubt this film was up to the level of Oscar Wilde style sophisticated wit though. Apart from the Shrek comparison that I’ve already made, it’s very much like the terrible movies that have become tried to follow the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker movies. Admittedly, I found this movie funnier than Meet the Spartans (see my review here), which we watched a while back, and indeed probably most of the so called comedy movies we’ve seen on this list so far. But really this is just another of those movies that relies too strongly on tired slapstick and unfunny parodies (not as much as its American counterparts, but it does do a few, eg The Ring).
Or perhaps it’s more to do with the few foreign language comedy movies I’ve seen. With the exception of Amelie, Good Bye Lenin and various kung-fu movies, I can’t think of any international movies that have made me laugh. That may be due to the fact that I haven’t watched many. Of those that I can think of, the Bigas Lunas films I’ve seen (in particular Jamon Jamon and The Tit and The Moon) just seem to rely on terrible sex gags (much like a Spanish Carry On film), and Les Vistiteurs was just Jean Reno with a silly haircut. I’m sure there have been more, but I just can’t think of them right now.
3) Mehmet Ali Erbil
When I was in senior school, someone once pointed out the picture of the astrologer for The Sun, Russel Grant, looked like he’d had his photo taken whilst he was standing in a wind tunnel. His mouth was open, so he looked like a letterbox and it made him look like his face was being inflated. I only bring this up as that’s the EXACT EXPRESSION that Mehmet has throughout much of the movie. In fact it’s not just throughout the movie, but also on the poster, so you can exactly what I mean just by scrolling upwards! Now facial expressions can transcend language barriers and I’d like to think that if maybe Rowan Atkinson, Marty Feldman or Stan Laurel were born in Turkey, and still made their movies I’d at least laugh due to their facial expressions alone. I think maybe Mehmet was trying this, but it just doesn’t work. He’s definitely more Mr Has-been than Mr Bean.
The only way I can judge this movie is exactly on what I took from it, and although this is a pretty rubbish movie, I’m not sure it deserves to be on the list. I found it funnier than most of the comedies on this list (meaning I laughed a couple of times) so far, and it does have a coherent storyline, which is more some of the movies we’ve watched. However, looking at the reviews on IMDB, and based on the fact that this movie didn’t get much of a release outside of Turkey, I can only assume that most of the poor ratings on IMDB, initially at least, came from a Turkish audience. So I think we’ll have just to trust their judgement that this movie truly is a large, stupid looking, farmyard bird and that it deserves its place on the list..