'Close to Eden' a fine monument to disappearing Mongol lifestyle


April 03, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Nothing like a zany story about a Mongol horseman looking for condoms, a Russian truck driver with a waltz tattooed on his back, and Genghis Khan.

No, it isn't NBC's "Movie of the Week," it's "Close to Eden," the Baltimore International Film Festival's early show at 7 tonight at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Nikita Mikhalkov's amusing and beautiful film does a gloss on the old country mouse/city mouse fable, as it gets Gombo, wild man of the plains, interacting with Sergei, a long distance trucker. After an idyllic visit in the great outdoors, Sergei talks Gombo into coming into town with him.

The material is comedic but the overall tone is melancholic. Mikhalkov laments the passing of the Mongol way of life, the freedom of the steppes. He photographs the vastness of the steppes with passion; you've never seen such expanses of green emptiness flowing to the horizon, a universe of nothingness. Strictly as an examination of a monument, the movie is gripping.

The second screening, at 9:30 tonight, is "Simple Men," by Hal Hartley, a widely respected American independent filmmaker. Hartley, headquartered on the far shores of Long Island, makes quirky romantic stories about "regular" people. "Simple Men," he writes, "is about a man who tries to hate women. It is about his younger brother who feels he will lack an identity until he confronts his father's life. And it is about a woman who refuses to lie. It's a romance with an attitude problem."

Then, tomorrow at 7 p.m., the great American filmmakerJonathan Demme's "Cousin Bobby" is screened. Demme, of course, has a mainstream career with "Silence of the Lambs" as his best-known picture, but he insists on returning periodically to smaller independent projects, like "Cousin Bobby." It's a documentary about his long-lost cousin, the Rev. Robert Castle who is a fiery minister and activist in Harlem.

For information, call (410) 889-1993. Tickets should be available

at the door.

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