Tharlo Screen 8 articles



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  • The movie is shot in black and white, in often very long takes. The style calls to mind the early films of the American director Jim Jarmusch, but this picture does not emulate Mr. Jarmusch’s knowing sardonic tone. “Tharlo” instead opts for fleeting charm and shaggy humanism, until the narrative takes a grim turn that’s both trite and sexist. The bottom drops out of the movie, leaving its interest almost exclusively ethnographic.

  • Tharlo is a startling departure, using a more intimate camera and narrative grammar that allows emotions to percolate up closer to visibility. And the results are intensely moving.

  • After a compulsory detour into an innocuous folk pageant in the grand tradition of “happy minority” socialist films (see note 2), Wu Cai Shen Jian (The Sacred Arrow, 2014) to calm down bureaucratic minds upset by Old Dog, Tharlo is a masterful return to form. Another Heaven Pictures Culture & Media Co., Ltd. Production, it is superbly shot in black and white (a first for Pema) by Lu Songye.

  • In his fifth feature film, Tharlo,Tseden deploys his trademark visual austerity to tell the elliptical tale of a shepherd caught between Chinese state bureaucracy and Tibetan spirituality, a parable of the conditions of contemporary Tibetan life rendered in stunning black-and-white. With its profound apprehension about the future, the film suggests the pessimistic vision that is evident throughout Tseden’s cinema.

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    Sight & Sound: Tony Rayns
    September 02, 2016 | October 2016 Issue (p. 91)

    It doesn't mark the start of an authentically Tibetan cinema, but makes it impossible to ignore the case for taking a new Tibetan cinema seriously... Pema Tseden says that the [Tharlo] character "is typical of Tibetans of the present generation... in a state of confusion, disorientation and desensitization". That's very likely true, but the film's triumph is that it presents Tharlo as a distinct and idiosyncratic individual.

  • The film bears an improbable, even uncanny, likeness to F.W. Murnau's Sunrise. It's not just because of its striking black-and-white cinematography, but for the ways in which Tseden dramatizes the perils of modernity in the simplest of ways.

  • Tseden says circumstance, rather than deliberation, motivated the new directions that the film seems to stake out: of the scripts he’s handed to the censorship bureau in Beijing, Tharlo happened to pass. But much of Tharlo might surprise fans of Tseden’s previous work: shot in black-and-white, with a surreal visual edge to compliment his comic-absurdist narrative, the director expands his style with confidence.

  • Throughout, the film works to give us a broad yet intimate view of a life, one that has been changed profoundly—in ways which are largely hinted, perhaps because the old ways can no longer be shown—long before Tharlo begins.

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