Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Imported Films Vie for Art-Theater Fame FILM

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Imported Films Vie for Art-Theater Fame FILM

Article excerpt

HOLLYWOOD films consistently outsell movies from other countries in American theaters. Yet every year a number of international movies try for success in the United States, hoping to join the list of exceptional pictures that become art-theater hits. Two of the latest are "Close to Eden," by Russian filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, and "Van Gogh," a portrait of the immortal Dutch painter made by French director Maurice Pialat.

"Close to Eden" takes place in Mongolia, where a young couple named Gombo and Pagma live a peaceful existence guided by old traditions, despite signs that modern civilization - under the authority of Chinese law - is moving ever closer to their rural home. Their lives take an unexpected twist when a Russian laborer named Sergei, working on a road-construction project in the area, accidentally plunges his truck into a lake. Gombo helps him out, and after getting to know each other, the men travel together to a nearby city.

Gombo hopes to buy a TV set during the trip - his wife says this will make them more modern - and also to purchase some condoms, in order to obey the limit on family size imposed by official policy. Again, however, unexpected events come to pass: Sergei drinks too much and gets arrested, while Gombo falls asleep on the way home and dreams that Genghis Khan is angry with his 20th-century aspirations.

When he finally gets back to Pagma, they decide their old-fashioned life is more satisfying than the rather dull stuff they see on their new television set. They also arrive at a decision about whether to abide by the official birth-control rules.

The end of the movie is nostalgic and romantic, employing the old-fashioned tool that Gombo uses to control his horses (the film was originally called "Urga," named after this device) as a symbol for the old-fashioned ways that may soon disappear.

"Close to Eden" is not a very dramatic film. …

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