Old Dog

93 min.
English, Chinese and Czech subtitles

Cinema Aero 3rd of April 18:00

Pema Tseden’s quest to create a new Tibetan cinema takes another leap forward with this droll/tragic tale of conflicts between a shepherd and his heavy-drinking son…particularly over their pet Nomad Mastiff.

If Pema Tseden’s last film The Search was inspired by Kiarostami, this new film takes its cue from Bresson. Not in seeing the world from an animal’s point-of-view, but in its use of non-pro actors, its careful framing and its ‘spiritual’ contemplation of material things. We’re in Tibet, of course (Pema Tseden has virtually invented modern Tibetan cinema single-handed), in a village which has seen a recent spate of dog thefts. An unkempt old Nomad Mastiff has been in Gonpo’s family for years, and he one day decides to sell it to pre-empt the thieves. He’s so pleased with the deal that he gets drunk before roaring home late at night on his motorbike. Next day his father rides into town on his pony to buy the dog back. The father-son conflict over the dog brings other tensions to the surface too, such as the father’s worry that Gonpo and his wife Rikso have been married for three years without producing a child… The story is humorous-going-on-tragic, and Pema Tseden finesses a completely convincing blend of naturalistic detail and bigger-picture metaphors for the strains of life in a changing Tibet. Not surprisingly, it’s very beautiful.

Tony Rayns