HAMAM STEAM: THE TURKISH BATH
Starring: Alessandro Gassman, Francesca
D'Aloja, Mehmet Gunsur, Zozo
Toledo, & Basak Koklukaya
Rating: Not rated by MPAA
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Director: Feraan Ozpetek
Producer: Marco Risi & Maurizio Tedesco
Writer: Ferzan Ozpetek
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Though billed as sort of an erotic, exotic movie, this esoteric, slow-moving story revolves around a young Turkish-Italian man named Francesco (Alessandro Gassman) who inherits an old dilapidated Turkish bath in Istanbul, Turkey. Francesco is unhappily married to the beautiful Marta (Francesca D'Aloja) and so is happy to leave Italy to look at the bath and make arrangements for its sale.
In Istanbul, he lives with a charming family who has a beautiful teenage daughter named Fusun (Basak Koklukaya) and a handsome 20-something son named Mehmet (Mehmet Gunsur). The audience is led to believe that he may have a relationship with Fusun, but soon Francesco is attending a public bath with Mehmet. Francesco enjoys the bath and makes arrangements to make regular visits. As he goes with Mehmet, the two seem to become closer and closer. When Francesco realizes that his real estate agent Zozo plans to sell the bath to a greedy developer, Francesco decides not to sell but restore the bath himself.
Marta pays an unexpected visit and happens upon Francesco and Mehmet kissing in the newly restored bath. As she makes her plans to leave him for good, an unexpected act of violence alters the future for all members of this fractured family unit.
Though the Turkish landscapes and cityscapes intrigue with exotic charm, the actors do not. Most are wooden and lifeless, and Francesco's change from straight to homosexual is unmotivated and not explained. His wife, though dissatisfied with their marriage, genuinely seems to care about him. The parents of Mehmet and Fusun are seen as churchgoers, and the mother tells Francesco that God will punish him for his sins.
In a letter written long-ago by Francesco's deceased aunt, she says that the "baths wash away mores as well as dirt, and that it is fascinating to see what men will do to each other in secret." Hence, the movie itself makes no bones about the seductive, sinful environment the baths become. As Francesco builds the bath, he is building a new life as a homosexual. Nothing can deter him, but an unchangeable surprise, which stuns all.
Though handsome, and including many scenes of family dinners, hard work, visitations to other business and even church visits, this dud of a movie eventually boils down to a pro-homosexual poster, encouraging others to even switch from straight to homosexual. It is not salacious nor pornographic, but it is intentionally earnest. Luckily, it is only playing in major cities. Regrettably, there is where many a lost soul can be swayed by its Middle-eastern charms.