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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Thank you for the review of Mikhalkov's Close to Eden. It  is a  remarkable
and unique film, which leapt instantly onto my Lifetime Top Ten list last
year because of its unforgettable setting and photography, and its
completeness, universality, and humor.
       However, both prof jahiel and PSYCPAT *mistakenly* see the dinner'd
sheep as skinned alive. No -- in a brief, wordless scene giving us one of the
most moving homages to life on the land ever filmed, we watch Gombo (the
young dad) kill a sheep for dinner in the traditional Mongolian way, in honor
of their Russian houseguest.
       Cradling the sheep in his lap, Gombo feels with his fingertip for the
breastbone, then painlessly pierces the skin there with a sharp knife,
reaches one hand inside, and grips the heart to still it-- while placing his
other hand around the sheep's snout to muffle its single dying cough.  Gombo
murders the sheep bloodlessly and soundlessly, without a single violent
movement. There is no tension or struggle. The ending tableau looks like a
pieta'.
       Only after he is certain the sheep is dead does Gombo give it to his
wife to dress (skin, clean, and butcher). Moments later the fresh meat is in
the stewpot. The family's respect for the sheep, and for their houseguest,
builds all the way through.
       For this scene, as well as for the rest of this magnificent film,
Close to Eden deserves a much wider audience.
 
Bet MacArthur      Arts Analysis Inst    Cambridge MA USA