In the poor, desolate northern provinces of the mountainous feudal Sunni kingdom of Afghanistan (before the Soviet-engineered republican revolutions), the status of the proud men and their ...
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In the poor, desolate northern provinces of the mountainous feudal Sunni kingdom of Afghanistan (before the Soviet-engineered republican revolutions), the status of the proud men and their clans is determined less by wealth or even military power (both rare) then by victories in the ancient, though game of buskashi, a vicious form of polo dating back to Genghis Khan, in which the chapendaz (participating horsemen) use their horse-whips on both mounts and rivals in a ruthless fight for a heavy 'ball', a dead calf, which must be carried a long way, almost impossible with all the others mercilessly assailing. Tursen, a former champion, now holds the status of village notable thanks to his position as stable-keeper of the regional lord Osman Bey, and has finally bred a horse without equal, the white stallion Jahil, in time for the royal tournament on the plain of Bagrami, just outside the capital Kabul. As Tursen is too old and has a crooked leg, his son Uraz, even prouder and with a ... Written by
The film began shooting using 65mm negative (Super Panavision), but during production Columbia Pictures went through a change in management. The budgets for this and another 65mm production, Mackenna's Gold (1969), were cut and both films were forced to switch over to 35mm anamorphic Panavision. However, both were released in 70mm, with the later-shot sections blown up. In later years, the mix-and-match formats made restoration of the films more time-consuming and expensive than if they'd been shot entirely in 65mm, and they were preserved in 35mm only. See more »
When Tursen (Jack Palance) has a flashback to one of his past victories, one can tell that he is swinging a phony, lightweight, stuffed goat carcass around when his horse jumps up on the mud hut. See more »
What demon has possessed you to mock these good people with that piece of dog-bait?
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Not having seen this film since its initial release, I have vague moments of recollection (I was eleven at the time) but, after all these years, I still remember this film, a few scenes-even the theater where I saw it-so that has to count for something. We, my parents, and myself went to many, many movies so it was not unusual for me to come along, even at decidedly adult fair such as this. My mother had a crush on Omar-notwithstanding that they share the same passion for bridge. Frankenheimer had a good reputation for producing and directing interesting, offbeat films that hit as often as they miss-The Manchurian Candidate, Grand Prix, and Black Sunday come to mind. So, we gave this film a shot.
While I do not remember the plotline to any great extent, what I do remember quite vividly was that this film took place in Afghanistan, and features quite prominently the national sport of Buzkashi-a sport whereby riders on horses attempt to deposit the carcass of a lamb in a circle. Also, this has what is quite honestly the best performance in a film by Omar Sharif you will ever find. He plays a great rider who is injured early in the film. He broads about a lot but finally finds redemption by returning to the sport that nearly killed him for that one last ride. I do not remember if he makes it through alive.
Buzkashi is an old, old brutal sport/ritual full of tradition and ceremony. The film took great pains to present this dying spectacle as realistically as possible and is the great set piece to the film. A true Man's man sport, it is not for the fainthearted. For me, at eleven, I was not used to cinematic `realism' even though by then I had seen hundreds of films. Perhaps it is why I remember it so for it made quite an impression.
The film was transferred to video but is long out of print and only available through collectors. It has not made it to DVD, unfortunately. I have not seen it since it initial release.
Still, in a long career for Frankenheimer, this is a film that should not be forgotten and is probably one of his best.
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