‘Tharlo’: Film Review

Being a shepherd undoubtedly requires a number of endurance, and so does watching the newest effort from acclaimed Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden (Old Dog). Relating the story of a sheepherder whose life adjustments dramatically when he ventures to the massive city and becomes romantically concerned with a youthful, subtle lady, Tharlo is meticulously executed, but like many art house movies of its kind, it is more than a little dull.

The title character (Shide Nyima) lives a quiet, easy life tending to his flock, with a pet lamb being his solely company. Although uneducated, he possesses a prodigious reminiscence, as demonstrated by his capacity to cite at size from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, a feat he performs on the drop of a hat.

Notified by the local authorities that he should obtain an official ID card — “I know who I am, is not that sufficient?” he complains — Tharlo, more generally often called “Ponytail” for his trademark coiffure, ventures into the closest town. He visits a photographer to get his image taken, only to be advised that he should first get himself cleaned up. He then goes to a hair salon, where’s he attended to by the comely Yangchuo (Yang Shik Tso), whose untraditional method is signified by her quick hair and cigarette smoking. She acts flirtatiously, and that evening they go out together to a karaoke bar, a form of leisure that completely befuddles Tharlo.

That the mild shepherd’s life is going to change, and not for the higher, upon meeting the free-spirited young girl will not be laborious to guess. But whereas the plot developments are predictable, the director imposes an austere type that invests the allegorical proceedings with a fable-like high quality. The black & white movie consists of long, static, meticulously composed shots (the press notes claim only eighty four in all) that regularly emphasize the central character’s emotions of disorientation and dislocation. The sound design is also rigorously designed, the loud cacophony of the city settings dramatically contrasting with the deafening silence of the countryside.

The glacially paced film is in the end extra fascinating for its ethnographic and technical points than its rudimentary storyline, though the marvelous deadpan efficiency by Nyima, an acclaimed Tibetan theater performer, provides a a lot-needed humanistic quality.

Distributor: Icarus Films Production companies: Beijing Fenghua Times Culture Communication, Beijing YiHe Star Film Production, Heaven Pictures (Beijing) Culture & Media Co., New Heaven Picture Culture & Media Cast: Shide Nyima, Shik Tso Yang Director-screenwriter: Pema Tseden Producers: Leilei Wu, Xuebo Wang Director of images: Songye Lu Production designer: Daktse Dundrup Editor: Song Bing

Not rated, 123 minutes

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