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The bombastic English title might sound like it describes some comic book sci-fi epic, but in “Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light” our hero does not wear a cape but a weathered cap, and the light he guards is not an interstellar death ray but the flickering beam of a battered old movie projector. Prominent Kazakh writer-director Yermek Tursunov returns to the festival circuit with this Shanghai-competing delight: a film that in its way is as charmingly old-fashioned as the beloved Chaplin, Keaton and Johnny Weissmuller classics it celebrates.
Movies about the movies, and more specifically about kindly old men passing on their eccentric cinephilia to a younger generation despite the march of mass-produced progress, are not a new phenomenon. But this Kazakhstan-set itinerant “Cinema Paradiso” distinguishes itself by its earnest desire to satisfy the same naive hunger for story and spectacle that got us all addicted to the movies in the first place. In the film, the rural audiences of mid-’70s Kazakhstan are vocal about their preferences: “Give us a love story!” shouts one. “No, an animal picture — I want to laugh at the monkeys” insists another. And just as one-man traveling cinema Tarzan (Murat Mukazhanov), so named after his patrons’ favorite film, tries his best to give the people what they want, so too does Tursunov, melding genres and moods, from war story to romance to comedy to tragedy, to deliver a blunt, broad, episodic adventure — the kind of film we’re fond of saying that people don’t make anymore.
Shanghai - Film - Review - Guardian - Light
Shanghai Film Review: 'Shyrakshy: Guardian of the Light'
It begins, unexpectedly enough, in Germany in 1945, where a Kazakh soldier is seeing some spectacularly mounted action as part of a Soviet detachment fighting the Battle of Berlin. Buildings explode, tanks open fire, burning men fall from balconies and the soldier even...
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