Political Film Society - Newsletter #309 - July 1, 2008

July 1, 2008


MongolThe biopic Mongol begins in 1192 at a critical time of Genthis Khan’s life, when he is imprisoned in a border town, then immediately flashes back to 1172 when at the age of 9 under the name Temudgin (played by Odnyam Odsuren), his tribal leader father Esugei (played by Ba Sen) is poisoned by the rival Merkit clan but he is spared because of his youth just after he is betrothed to aggressive 10-year-old Borte (played by Bayertsetseg Erdenbat). A few years later, he is captured by the Merkits but released by youthful shepherd Jamukha (played by Amarbold Tuvinbayar), and the two pledge to be brothers. When Jamukha in time rises in power, Temudgin (now played by Asano Tadanobu) gathers some of Jamukha’s followers because of his magnanimity after a successful battle. Later captured, Temudgin is sold as a slave until an older Borte (now played by Khulan Chuluun) comes to rescue him. But now the brothers are rivals and command battles against each other until 1206, when Temudgin is victorious over Jamukha (played as an adult by Honglei Sun) and unites all Mongol clans under his leadership in 1206. The film ends despite the trailer that appears to hint that the film will feature the apogée of Mongol rule, which eventually extended into India, Mesopotamia, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Why, under the new nom de guerre Genghis Khan, such success? Although Jamukha credits him with clever military strategy, the former illiterate orphan and slave appears to have appealed on the basis of a sense of justice, including a belief that women and children should be spared from death in war. Directed by Sergei Bodrov, filmviewers awed by the epic Mongol and the breathtaking cinematography of the steppes of Inner Mongolia and Kazakhstan will eagerly await two planned sequels. MH

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. HunterS. ThompsonLongtime fascinating journalist for Rolling Stone, Thompson ended his life in 2005 at the age of 67. His earliest formative experience is his imprisonment after a wild pre-graduation party in Louisville while parents of rich kid friends got them released from custody. In San Francisco during the 1960s, he joins the drug culture but later excoriates the anomic hippies and then becomes a participant journalist in a book-length exposé of the Hell’s Angels that brings instant fame. Assigned to cover the 1968 Democratic convention, he sours on both Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie as sellouts to the establishment for condoning the savage beatings of peaceful demonstrators in Chicago. His heroes were Robert Kennedy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Muhammed Ali, whose straight-talking honesty is reviled by what he considers the cynical press. In a brief segment, he runs for mayor of the county around Aspen as a reform candidate, shocking residents with such bold ideas as stopping greedy developers and legalizing drugs. When assigned to “search for the American dream,” he heads for Las Vegas and again achieves literary notoriety with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1971, which he believes signaled the end of the 60s as well as the demise of the American dream. Whereas the film focuses on his wild personality, which alternates between pensive brilliance and cruel viciousness, the beginning sets the premise that Bush’s declaration of national emergency serves to depress Thompson, but that thought is frustratingly never developed later in the two-hour story of his life. Although a celebrity due to his eloquence, filmviewers are sadly deprived of most epigrams and witticisms that caused such adulation. His fame evidently sapped the creativity of a hungry writer, and he just saw no future for himself. Directed by Alex Gibney with narration from his writing by Johnny Depp, the documentary features film footage of Thompson along with interviews of his two wives and son as well as of laudatory admirers from Pat Buchanan to Buchanan, Carter, McGovern, and more than a dozen more. MH