Sunday, August 20, 2023

Tosun Paşa (1976)

In the occupied deserts of Egypt, two rival Ottoman families are feuding over who gets the lush Green Valley. They both get it in their heads to ask for the local magistrate's daughter Leyla's hand in marriage, but after a head injury, and a brainwave, the Tellioğulları family decides to make their clumsy butler Şaban pose as Tosun Pasha, a revered figure in the military. Will their plan succeed, or will something go wrong? Or how?...

Tosun Paşa is an entertaining Turkish comedy. In a way it's part of a loose trilogy, along with Süt Kardeşler and Şaban Oğlu Şaban. While none are connected, all three share the running theme of military and Ottoman life. One is about the navy, one the army, and this focuses on the Colonial side of the empire.

The film is a very funny portrayal of the local history. The comedy is pretty universal. There are misunderstandings, slapstick, and over-the-top characters, and it's all a hoot.

The story is simple but effective, and pretty much an excuse to let the various gags and situations play out.

I imagine the relation to the setting and the plot is no mistake either. I'm not sure when exactly this is supposed to be set, but if it's anywhere near the late 1880s, early 1900s, this whole conflict is immaterial anyway! These families are fighting so hard to get territory that's gonna be gone in only a few years time anyway when the Ottoman empire crumbles, and the Arabs take back control.

The film does a great job showing off Turkish culture, from their little habits and customs, to their various 'carnival' games, and of course hamams and Turkish oil wrestling! It's here where the film becomes incredibly homoerotic. I understand cultural differences, and in many ways the Turks (and Europeans in general) have a much healthier definition of masculinity than westerners. On the other hand they had to have known how it looks, and been playing it up for laughs!

The characters are a kooky and kinda unlikeable bunch, but in a harmless and funny way. The two families are Tellioğulları and Seferoğullarına, and no I'm not typing those in full again! The Tellio's are the leads, and are determined to get the land they see as rightfully theirs. After a Sefer-induced head injury results in their patriarch thinking their rivals are the bees knees, and butler Şaban is his father. One thing leads to another and they find themselves posing him as a high official and war hero. Sure enough, the power immediately goes to Şaban's head, and he begins scheming for himself.

If I had to pick a complaint though, it's that we don't really get much from the Sefer family. None are really characterised, nor do they get a lot of screentime. They're basically all the same.

Local mayor Daver Bey is a levelheaded, if slightly oblivious guy. He's fairly wise to the antics of these feuding families, but taken in like a dope by the fake Pasha. Then there's his daughter Leyla, who's a bit of a fickle girl, really! None of the men in this film really love her for her, only for what she can provide them. While she has a thing for a handsome young Sefer man, yet doesn't hesitate to cuddle up with what she thinks is Tosun Pasha, or the real one!

The real Tosun Pasha eventually shows up in the last act, biding his time under an alias to see what exactly's going on, and who's behind it.

This all culminates in a great free-for-all climax, with a big brawl. It does re-use a few jokes a touch, but is still funny, and there's plenty of great stuff. Like how the real Tosun Pasha notices Leyla and is instantly attracted, and they casually have a conversation while there's chaos around them.

The ending sees everyone getting their just desserts. Leyla has ended up with her best option, and the Green Valley is in good hands. And you can guess whose hands that's not...

The cast here is a high point. Kemal Sunal is a fun goofy lead, while Şener Şen is his usual shouty and grumpy self, rotating through various emotions, from fury, to desperation, and more. Some other Turkish regulars are here, like Adile Naşit and Ayşen Gruda, fun as usual. And Müjde Ar is gorgeous! The remainder of the cast is a good one, with some distinct looks.

If there is one oddity it's the complete lack of any Arabs (or at least, Turks playing Arabs). This is supposed to be Egypt, yet there are no Egyptians anywhere to be found, not as retainers, nor plotting sedition in the background. This is understandable since that's not what the movie's about, but it is odd for them to not even be here.

The film looks very good, with countless gorgeous costumes for the ladies, and snazzy suit and fez combos for the guys (so many fezes! A sea of them!), not to mention the tassles. The locations
a sense of DIY grandeur, which fits with the theme of the Turks just plopping themselves down in the middle of a desert, setting up a few stands, and calling it home.

The direction overall is really good, and the mixing of the dessert with these colourful costumes works really well. Regular actor Kartal Tibet is behind the camera, and proves his worth beyond acting once again.

Tosun Paşa is another Turkish comedy classic, and a fun time! Ideally it should be watched with English subs if they can be found, but even if you can't, as long as you're developing an interest you'll get the gist ok. It's funny regardless...

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