Tulpan (Palace Films Collection) (2008)
Interviews-Crew-At The Movies Interview: Director Sergey Dvortsevoy (5.00)
|Year Of Production||2008|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Sergei Dvortsevoy|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English (Burned In)||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Tulpan is Kazakhstan's submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film. This quiet little film is not only the pride of Kazakhstan - it has already picked up a swag of international film awards including the Un Certain Regard from the Cannes Film Festival.
Tulpan, which means tulip in Kazakh, is the story of Asa, a young sailor who has completed his military service and has returned to the Hunger Steppes to live with his sister and her family in their humble yurt. Just as there is little chance of finding a tulip growing in the steppe, there is also a distinct lack of eligible women in this broad expanse. Asa has simple dreams - he just wants to find a girl, build a flock of sheep and settle down to the life of a herdsman. Trouble is the "boss" refuses to give a flock to an unmarried man.
All he has to do is marry Tulpan.
Life is never that simple. Not only is Tulpan a rare single girl on the steppe, she is also picky when it comes to men. After a meeting with the parents, which she observes from behind a curtain, the judgment is pronounced - a firm "no". It turns out that she thinks Asa has "sticky-out" ears and to quote American pop culture : She's just not that into him. She's also can't be impressed at Asa's fondness for tall tales as he explains how he fought giant octopi in his military service!
Maybe it is for the best. Asa doesn't seem suited to the life of a herdsman. He is more of an annoyance than a help to his brother-in-law Ondas and when stillborn lambs start appearing, threatening the future of the flock, the last thing Ondas wants is a "city boy" in the way.
Describing the plot of Tulpan in this fashion is to recognise the elements of the story but the film is rarely about the plot. It is really about these characters and their existence in the harsh steppe, which deserves to be considered a character in its own right. The elemental hardship of the steppe is a constant wonder, how people survive there is an amazement. Barely a scene goes by without dust storms and constant wind. The landscape is blasted flat and treeless resembling more a hostile alien world (think Alien and Aliens) than a place on Earth.
This is no CGI fest. Director Sergey Dvortsevoy spent years preparing for the film and months with his cast, which features only one trained actor, in the wild living in a yurt. His background in documentaries served him well for the experience although he sees the fiction form as a more honest form of documentary. In a recent interview he expressed concern over the extent to which documentary filmmakers change their subject, only making a film where the subjects suffer hardship or setbacks.
This background helps in an understanding of Tulpan. The director films it as a documentary filmmaker would - with his camera an observant, but independent, participant in the scene. He often films the action as part of the environment with characters moving in and out of frame. The pace has been described as slow but in reality it is the environment that is slow and the director has merely tuned his film into the rhythm of the land. Ultimately this is what makes Tulpan an extraordinary film. Once we as audience members can allow our "MTV meets Transformers" brains to slow down to catch the pace of the steppe the effect is profound and life affirming, as life affirming as the live sheep births that feature as set pieces in the movie. Lest the description of the environment and the lifestyle suggest that this is a dour, relentless experience it must be said that Tulpan is at times a wildly funny film. The sight of the hapless suitor presenting his intended parents-in-law, in their humble presumably powerless yurt, with an elaborate chandelier as a gift is matched in humour by his attempts to use an old picture of Prince Charles and Diana to show that men with prominent ears can be successful!
Tulpan is a critical darling because it lands the viewer at a point where the bleak and inhospitable meet indomitable spirit. Reduced to little sad and funny moments and shot against some of the most awe-inspiring emptiness it is an unique film experience. Viewers might find the only recent comparison to be The Story of the Weeping Camel which itself dealt with harsh lands, tough peoples and lots of camels. Both are rare experiences.
Tulpan was shot on 35mm film and was shown cinematically at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.
The film is placed on a dual layer DVD 9. Even so, I was concerned that a film having, as a constant, dust storms would play havoc with the compression creating a blotchy mess. In fact the concerns were unfounded. The many dust scenes are remarkably stable and the compression presents no trouble whatsoever.
The print itself is clear and free of any defects.
Vibrant colours are not abundant in the steppe but they are well handled and true. The flesh tones, all weathered browns, are also accurate.
The transfer does justice to the extraordinary cinematography.
The subtitles are burnt into the print.
Tulpan carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in a mixture (so the DVD case states) of Kazakh and Russian. It runs at a surprisingly low 224 Kb/s.
The dialogue can be heard clearly and there appears to be audio sync. There are no technical problems with the soundtrack.
The soundtrack is surprisingly immersive. As with the film itself, the effect of the sound is subtle but effective. As we catch the rhythms of the film the sounds of nature become all the more apparent. Bleating sheep, the wind, the occasional camel and the putter of tractor engines all emerge from the soundtrack with the importance that comes when all extraneous noise is stripped away.
There is no musical track for the film. However, Asa's sister and her daughter are both singers and they punctuate the film with otherworldly songs (untranslated).
|Surround Channel Use|
In this short interview the director explains the origin of the project and the challenges working in the steppes.
The trailer emphasizes the comedy of the film with a big focus on Asa's big ears.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This film is available in Region 1 with a similar transfer but with minimal extras (an interview in the DVD case). It does not appear to be available in other Regions as yet.
Tulpan is not for everyone or every time. It demands a release on the part of the viewer of the need for instant cinematic gratification. It is an enthralling experience and for once we are able to see it on DVD before the Oscars. Expect it to be one of the final nominees.
The transfer is very good and the extras though brief add something to the package.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|