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THE FALL OF OTRAR/GIBEL OTRARA

Though often confusing to someone without a background in medieval Central Asian history (i.e., myself), Kazakhstanian director Ardak Amirkulovís 1990 epic The Fall of Otrar/Gibel Otrara often exceeds The Lord of the Rings trilogy in detail, spectacle, and sheer narrative exuberance (exuberant, at times, to the point of incoherence, alas). In the13th century, Genghis Khan threatened the great Muslim kingdom of Kipchak; that nationís mighty Shah, however, ignores the obvious threat and opts to conquer Baghdad.

Sound familiar? Our guide through this labyrinth of cultures, plots, intrigues, and eldritch locations and set designs (as if the Eisenstein of Ivan the Terrible had taken his hand to Lawrence of Arabia ) is a scout who has worked for years undercover in the Mongol army and returns with vital information that is ignored. Heís a spirited if ineffectual hero; this self-styled "arrow of God" maintains his Seven Samurai flamboyance and fatalism even as he has the shit kicked out of him repeatedly. Maybe itís because he knows from the title that the end is predestined. Itís still moving and hilarious, though, a cinematic version of Shelleyís "Ozymandias." In Kazakh, Mandarin, and Mongolian with English subtitles. (165 minutes)


Issue Date: April 9 - 15, 2004
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