The reason I thought Storm Over Asia was gonna be a slog to get through is because it’s foreign. That sounds terrible but there’s no point dancing around it. Im being doubly ridiculous to feel that way because it’s pretty clear by this point in the Project that America’s movies weren’t the best of the 1920s. Far from it. The German stuff was tops: the most innovative, the most edgy. But even though this Project has already, with just forty entries, made it perfectly clear that there was way cooler movie shit going on in other countries…I just can’t shake this vibe like I’m not gonna understand what a foreign filmmaker is getting at.
But the crux of art is basically that a human is a human is a human and, not surprisingly, Storm Over Asia is totally approachable and coherent and moving and fun. I liked it a lot.
The inciting action, wherein our youngish Mongolian hero, a descendant of Genghis Khan, is cheated in a sale of fox fur to a white, Western, affluent-looking fucktart, is remarkably tense and engaging. The shots of this enormous market, where fur traders are selling their goods to Western buyers, are beautifully composed, jumping back and forth between close-up shots of elaborate swordplay and bird’s-eye shots of ambling crowds. There’s texture to the setting and, yeah, the market scene culminates in an engaging action sequence — which I tend to always find interesting, regardless of their technical efficiency, so long as there’s a real sense of something at stake — but there’s more than just an action-style tension here when the hero, played by Valery Inkijinoff, is in the process of selling the fur, of getting cheated, of knowing he’s being cheated and also knowing that he basically has no defense against these guys. That their word will always trump his own. And then he snaps. Pulls out his Genghis and trashes the place. And this made the action scene more than just an action scene. There was this relatable feeling of impotence before an authority.
Our Genghis guy skips town because the Westerners are looking for him and, while going through the hills, he gets tangled up in a rebel movement. There’s a nice mentor-protégé relationship, the likes of which I tend to be a sucker for, and yadda-yadda-yadda our hero ends up being worshipped by those same militant tits who, up until a few minutes ago, had made a sport of exploiting and then trying to kill him, because they find that he’s a descendant of Genghis Kahn and they wanna use that to their advantage in devious government shit.
It’s great. The editing alone is remarkable, kinetic, and the last five minutes are some of the most impressive I’ve seen on the List so far. Very foreign, for sure, both in technique and sensibility. But foreign is good. Foreign is very good.