Saturday, July 08, 2006


The summer blockbuster season has been a wash-out, so I took myself off to the most avowedly art-house flick I could find. It was a low-budget Mongolian flick called THE CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG. I reckon the Platonic ideal of a friday-night movie includes good-looking people shooting guns, preferably while driving fast cars. So as the opening credits rolled - all hand-drawn Mongolian script and ethnic music - the outlook wasn't good. But I have to say that this is a really charming movie that confounds expectations.

On the one hand, it plays as an intimate portrait of a real-life nomadic family living in contemporary Mongolia. We have mum, dad, and three little kids. They act naturally together and are caught on camera doing the most wonderful-crazy things. Some of it is charming because it is so different - for instance, the little girl complaining that the dog she has befriended is always asleep whenever she wants to play. She wonders if he was a lazybones in his past life. And some of it is charming because it's exactly the same stuff that went down in my house when I was a kid. There's not much superficially similar between my dad and this Mongolian chap, but both are really annoyed when their wives aren't stern enough to get the little girl to send the stray dog away.

If there is a flaw to this movie it is the rather hammy ending. It is probably also fair to warn you that it moves at about the same pace as life in the Mongolian outback! However, I never felt bored: it was a pleasure just to spend time with this family; the photography was stunning and I really appreciated the subtle handling of the sad conflict between town and country life.

THE CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG played in Germany and Austria in 2005 and in France in February 2006. It is currently on release in the UK.

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