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Authentic appeal

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2016-12-08 07:39

Authentic appeal

Yangshik Tso plays a seductress hairdresser in Tharlo, a black-and-white feature film directed by Pema Tseden. [Photo provided to China Daily]

But the Tibetans in Pema Tseden's lens live ordinary lives. Actually, the male lead carries on a life of monotony as a shepherd in the mountains, punctuated only by the howls of wolves. He tends to hundreds of sheep, some of which are placed in his care by a customer.

When Tharlo, the protagonist, is sent to the county town to take a photo for a new ID, the proprietor of the photo lab is not amused by his disheveled hair. He is sent across the street for a hair wash and it ends in a fateful encounter with the beautiful and scheming hairdresser who eventually runs away with his life saving of 160,000 yuan ($23,500).

Although he does not seem to be an educated man, Tharlo ponders big, philosophical questions: Is he a good man or a bad one? Will he die with the weight of a mountain or the weightlessness of a feather?

The audience may ask these questions of the femme fatale, but one gets enough room - and time - to direct one's thinking in any way one wants.

The title character is played by Shide Nyima, a master comedian locally known as "Tibet's answer to Zhao Benshan".

In the movie, he strips every comedic trace and imparts an air of authenticity as a weather-beaten single man, who suffers not so much from poverty as from work-related hardships such as loneliness. One wonders what kind of transformation he would go through in the face of urbanization.

Yangshik Tso plays the mystery woman whose seduction of Tharlo we hope would include a modicum of tenderness. In the hair-cutting scene reminiscent of Samson and Dalila, she conveys the complexities of her inner world, possibly her moral conflicts, with nothing but facial expressions.