Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:25 pm 
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About a boy - or two

A rare film made by an outsider, Russian filmmaker Elizaveta Stishova, in Kyrgyzstan, about a boy and shifty parents who reclaim him from an orphanage, then go on a road trip enacting various con games. Uluk (Daniel Daiyrbekov), who has a dour, astonished face, is more circumspect than the gypsyish "family" he gets saddled with, but he knows he's fortunate too. He gets to travel, and they buy him a toy helicopter.

Uluk's father, Karabas (Asset Imangaliev), is a charmer in his floppy-haired way, tall, with mustachios, in need of a haircut when, after an exorcism, they're flush enough to buy him a nice suit (which he doesn't seem to pay for). He frightens and then awes Uluk, then smashes his helicopter, childishly playing with it by himself.

The boy also has to contend with two wives. His mother, Zhipara, is a middle-aged woman who looks plain but does flashy exorcisms and other rituals. The pretty young wife, Turganbyubyu (Turgunai Erkinbekova), is pregnant, and emotional. Zhipara is uneasy, and has to make sure Karabas stays hooked to her in more ways than one.

One incident or village scene follows another as they travel around in an ancient East German truck, scamming money that Karabas hastens to throw away. The incidents are full of authentic local color. But they don't have quite enough dramatic meat on them. Fellini or Emir Kusturica might have done more with this potentially rich material. Here, the characters don't matter enough: particularly not enough attention is given to the little boy. And Karabas isn't ever quite awful enough so that we can enjoy forgiving him. But the road trip flavor is captured.

Much of the action is shot on location in and around the mystic World Heritage Site of the Suleiman Mountain in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Suleiman Mountain/Suleiman too, 101 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2017 in the Discovery section; also Palm Springs Jan. 2018; screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Apr. 2018. There was a meetup watch and hike for the Sat. date.

Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at BAMPFA
Friday, April 13, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. at YBCA Screening Room
Saturday, April 14, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at Roxie Theater


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