Head-On (Fatih Akin). 121 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (June 17) at Camera. See Indie & Rep Film, page 117. Rating: NNNNN
When alcoholic busboy Cahit ( Birol Unel , who's delicious - imagine Marcello Mastroianni as a middle-aged punk) drives his car head-on into a wall, it's both a suicide attempt and a metaphor: the car is him, the wall is the world, and his tendency to hurl one against the other is both his problem and its solution.
In the suicide ward, he meets Sibel ( Sibel Kekilli ), a fellow damaged Germanized Turk 20 years his junior. She convinces him to marry her so she can leave her repressive family. Happily dissolute, they do lines at their sham wedding, carouse, fight and self-destruct, bleeding supersaturated blood.
Of course, they don't get away with it for long. The chorus of sentimental Turkish torch songs that punctuates the action seems truer and less laughable each time it rolls around, as Fatih Akin eases us from the heights of exuberance down to a perfect deep pitch of bittersweet romantic melancholy.
Which is where his generosity as a filmmaker kicks in. After the crime and the punishment, he allows himself a redemptive third act that sprawls a full half-hour beyond the point where a lesser filmmaker would have let it drop.
In Akin's universe, the wages of sin aren't death but wisdom, which is both believable and intensely life-affirming.