CROSSING THE BRIDGE: THE SOUND OF ISTANBUL (Fatih Akin). 90 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (June 2). For venues and times, see Movies, page 195. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
We're told early on in this doc that "Istanbul is a bridge that has been crossed by 72 nations." In Crossing The Bridge: The Sound Of Istanbul , Turkish director Fatih Akin (Head-On) and German musician Alexander Hacke set out to explore the music of this slightly schizoid Asian and European city. They discover sounds as varied as Turkey's cultures, from Kurdish dirges to whirling dervishes to garage rock to hiphop. But they don't disprove Kipling's dictum that "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" (despite one American interviewee who says this is "bullshit").
The traditional music is beautiful and sad, but definitely Eastern. The time signatures are more varied, and the combination of up-tempo, danceable rhythms and minor key signatures is still uncommon in the West.
Meanwhile, the rock and rap artists can't get away from how very American those music forms are, proving once again both Western culture's pervasiveness and its skill at borrowing from other cultural forms.
None of the artists profiled here is as fascinating as the country's history. The words "Byzantium," "Constantinople" and "Istanbul" are as evocative and stirring as any song ever written. But Hacke's enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and endearing, and if the film's history lesson is too brief, it's still worth learning.