Icarus Films • 2h 3m
Directed by Pema Tseden • Drama • With Jinpa, Shide Nyima, Tsemdo Thar • 2015 • 123 minutes
'Renowned Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden returns with his profoundly moving new feature [adapted from his own novella] about a Tibetan shepherd named Tharlo. Visiting a Tibetan town in Qinghai province to obtain a proper ID card from the local police station, Tharlo surprises Police Chief Dorje by reciting from memory a lengthy excerpt from one of Chairman Mao's essays. But things develop in a romantic rather than a political direction. To prepare for his ID photo, Tharlo needs his hair washed, and so meets Yangtso, a beautiful local hairdresser. Their courtship is both exquisitely awkward and enthrallingly suspenseful. Tharlo is smitten, but town-dweller Yangtso's ideas of fun are not quite Tharlo's, and he spends an uncomfortable evening with her at a local karaoke joint.
'This is a passionate love story with darker undercurrents, where basic pastoral imperatives such as protecting his sheep from hungry wolves run against Tharlo's discovery of the contemporary pleasures of smoking, drinking, singing and sex.
'Pema Tseden's beautifully modulated black-and-white palette captures rural Qinghai with impressive grandeur, while the smallest details of Tharlo's and Yangtso's courtship register with vivid immediacy. Yangshik Tso is a compulsively watchable Yangtso, alluring and mysterious in equal measure. Tibetan comedy star Shide Nyima is brilliant as a shepherd struggling to stay grounded while feeling his way into a bewilderingly modern world. Can his moral universe encompass the possibility of an entirely new life?'
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