Volume 78 / Number 5 - July 2 - July 8, 2008
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Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Mongol” (+)
Some will compare the film’s director, Sergei Bodrov, to the renowned Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, whose pictures include “The Battleship Potemkin,” “October: Ten Days That Shook The World,” and “Ivan The Terrible.” I think that would be an overstatement.

“Mongol” is about the early years of a boy named Temudgin, who later became known as Genghis Khan. While it is an interesting movie, it is far less exciting than those directed by Eisenstein. The picture opens with nine-year-old Temudgin (Odnyam Odsuren) being taken to a clan by his father to select a bride. After choosing her, he will return in five years and they will marry. In this case, a girl one year older than Temudgin, Borte (Bavertsetseg Erdenebat), selects him. He agrees to the arrangement and years later the two are married.

As a woman, Borte is played by Khulan Chuluun, who steals the picture. While married to Temudgin she is kidnapped and raped. He is later sold into slavery and eventually rescued by Borte. Exciting and bloody battles occur including one between Temudgin and his blood brother, Jamukha (Honglei Sun), each leading their warriors into battle. Inspired by the God Tengri, Temudgin praying at a rock in a scene evocative of Moses, lays out moral axioms including, thou shalt not kill women and children. Interestingly, while the Mongols were not allowed to kill children, they allowed them to reach adulthood and then murdered them for earlier grievances.

Sequels will or have already been made of this film depicting Temudgin as he ages, becomes known as Genghis Khan, joins together all the Mongolian tribes and conquers vast parts of Russia and Europe. We are led to believe that he was a generous man who, by Mongol standards, was modern in outlook. (In Mongolian with English subtitles.)

The prior weekend I learned a few Scarsdale axioms as well. One was that “Scarsdale children must not be humiliated,” an explanation as to why additional soccer goals did not count once one side reached a clear victory. A second was, “Scarsdale children drink bottled water.” Both axioms protect children, and that is a good thing.

HS said: As a child, Temudgin suffered a great deal. By today’s standards, it would be predictable if he grew up to be a monster. But he is a Mongol. Tough as they come when attacked, but a gentleman in dealing with others. He is subject to harrowing treatment by a rival who wants to succeed Temudgin’s father as Khan (leader of the tribe). Luckily, American moviegoers know you can’t kill the hero in the first act, so we stay until justice is done. The English subtitles are absolutely necessary, and well done. This is a story of three generations, interrupted by the black plague in 1196. Now we know how people lived and died in those days, short lives and quick deaths. If you don’t have the time or money to visit Mongolia, and its capital, Ulan Bator, you should see this movie. I suppose they made most of it up, but the scenery was great. My favorite character was the old monk. Who will yours be?

Restaurant Review: Covo (+)
I read a list of West Harlem restaurants in The New York Times and decided to go to Covo with P.T. The address is 701 West 135th Street at 12th Avenue. The best way to get there is to go up to 137th Street along Broadway and go under the viaduct to 12th Ave. and go south.

The street is totally secluded. No houses nearby and there are two restaurants on the block – one is Covo and the other is Talay, an Asian restaurant. Covo’s food is American.

P.T. had Scottadito di Agnello (grilled marinated grass-fed New Zealand rack of lamb). Delicious. I had braised prime short ribs in Barolo wine, which was also delicious. The menu also features Coniglio (braised rabbit with rosemary and black olives); Branzino (brick oven baked whole Mediterranean sea bass) and Tagliata Al Aceto (grilled Organic sirloin steak with balsamic vinegar reduction).

The food is absolutely superb, the wait staff were very attentive. It was truly a wonderful experience. Everyone, customers and staff, are very friendly. I sat in their outdoor café area, which is wonderful.

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