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THE BODYGUARD

USSR, 1980 (MIFF 1981)

Director: Ali Khamraev

The scene is the rugged, mountainous terrain of Tadzhik, formerly a part of Uzbekistan, directly on the border with Afghanistan. The time is the early 1920s during the Civil War, but also the period of Revolution in Middle Asian republics. The bodyguard, played by Alexander Kaidanovsky, and the sultan played by Anatoly Solonitsyn, were both last seen in Andrei Tarkovsky's remarkable Stalker (1979).

The Bodyguard opens with a detachment of the Red Army in the mountains faced with the task of getting a ruling sultan to the main forces, but the unknown terrain full of canyons, rocky cliffs and desert area requires a special individual to achieve the task. The sultan's bodyguard is given the job — Kaidanovsky must take Solonitsyn, his daughter, and two other companions through the enemy territory. The bad guys have guns and horses, but they are also led by a bewitching, evil devil-goddess who dominates her chieftain husband.

Although the weak on both sides die along the way, the superhuman bodyguard manages to scale the faces of cliffs, cross canyons by ropes, and fight it out hand-to-hand with snakes and the leader of the gang to bring his master to the Red Army At times, he seems all but lost, yet single-handedly. like a Tarzan or a Toshiro Mifune. or Odysseus, he accomplishes each Herculean task set before him.

Ali Khamraev's name is hardly known in the west, but this lively action drama, one of two films he made in 1 980. is very stylish and engaging entertainment He is undoubtedly a new face in Russian cinema and his other 1980 film, Tryptych a much more interior drama, is equally compelling.

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