Icarus Films takes a Valentine's Day break from its continuing mission to distribute "innovative and provocative documentary films" on DVD to release the subtitled 2015 Tibetan drama "Tharlo." The artistic Criterion-style packaging and inclusion of the novella on which the film is based is very apt for the highly artistic nature of this black-and-white film that Icarus shares consists of "84 meticulously composed shots."
Icarus further states that Chinese novella author/filmmaker Pema Tseden of Tibetan ethnicity casts Shide Nyima in the role of the titular shepherd because that actor inspires bringing that character to the big screen. The numerous accolades for that portrayal include Nyima winning the Best New Actor award at the 2016 Shanghai Film Critics Awards.
The following YouTube clip of the theatrical trailer for "Tharlo" highlights the museum-quality of the cinematography and the strong performance of Nyima.
The film opens with Tharlo (a.k.a. Ponytail) showing off his incredible memory while at a police station to obtain a required identification card. The police chief telling this hermit who spends most of his time in the mountains with his large sheep herd that he must get a picture taken for the ID prompts Tharlo to visit a big city photography studio.
On arriving at the studio with filthy matted hair and the adornment that provides the nickname for which Tharlo is much better known than his given name, our hero goes to a nearby hair salon. This leads to 40-something Tharlo becoming enchanted with younger short-haired modern hairdresser Yangtso, For her part, Yangsto is fascinated by Tharlo.
Tharlo and Yangsto reconnecting later that day leads to his learning about Karaoke and going to a bar that centers around that activity. Their discussion during that activity includes comparing their smoking habits.
The role reversal theme that pervades the film continues with Yangsto carrying a drunk Tharlo back to her place. The morning after conversation includes mutual fantasizing about a better life.
Tseden then shifts the action back to the isolated/primitive daily existence of Tharlo; the contrast between this and his big-city existence (as well as the overall documentary feel of the film) almost certainly are behind Icarus venturing beyond non-fiction films to bring us this one.
The climax of "Tharlo" relates to our hero making a huge sacrifice for Yangsto only to find on returning to her that there are reasons that most relationships that last one night do so for a reason.
Tseden being so far from Los Angeles excuses him from any expectation that "Tharlo" has a Hollywood ending. The symbolism from the opening shot to the rolling of the closing credits more than makes up for any absences of being happier at the end of the film than you are at the beginning.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Tharlo" is strongly encouraged to email me; you also can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.