At this point, most movie nerds know about the sweet, sweet madness that is “The Man Who Saved the World” aka “Turkish Star Wars,” the 1982 pastiche of various Western sci-fi movies that might be the pinnacle of Turkey’s infamous copyright-irrelevant, collage-style film-making. But oh, there were more. So many, many, MANY more.
The intriguing documentary “Remix, Remake, Ripoff” pays tribute to Yeşilçam (aka the faintly insane Turkish film industry) and to the culture that gave rise to the sort of film biz that appears when a small country with a handful of screenwriters, no money and no copyright laws needs to crank out about 300 movies a year.
Writer/director/editor Cem Kaya lays out Turkish cinema history smoothly. Western movies played in the big cities, but folks in the more rural areas (in a pre-TV era) watched extremely cheaply made,Turkish movies, family-friendly pastiches that drew on everything from Wuthering Heights to “Rambo.” Kaya illustrates the Turkish fondness for the same story over and over with a wonderful montage of clips from two dozen movies showing the same series of scenes, sometimes shot for shot.
Sometimes with turnaround times of three days, between about 1970 and 1989 or so, directors cranked out melodramas, action pictures, Westerns and all sorts of genre stuff, cribbing everything from stories to soundtracks (“The Godfather” and Morricone were big, “Blade Runner” not so much) to special effects. (One director talks about breaking into a movie house showing “Star Wars,”clipping and copying the space dogfight scenes and replacing the reels).
Things get grimmer when “Remix” discusses the sheer exhaustion the creatives experienced (not to mention the genuinely insane censorship filmmakers were subject to by the military junta starting in 1980 — sex and violence were fine, but a scene in the water with the line “the water in up to my knees” revealed too much about Turkish coast).
Directors made hundreds of movies, actors acted in thousands, safety concerns were minimal at best. But as film scholars in “Remix” point out, this recombinant cinema literally could not have been made in any other country — copyright laws would have prevented it. Giggle at it if you must (and, to be fair, there is a lot to giggle at) but remember Turkey created movies that looks and feel and more like nothing else in world cinema.
“Remix” plays again 11:45 am Tuesday.