Kekexili: Mountain Patrol

dir. Lu Chuan

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Set against the vast mountain ranges of Tibet, Lu Chuan's rugged manhunt tale is a harsh reply to the poetic landscape tradition of the Fifth Generation filmmakers.


A rugged hybrid of docudrama and American western set against Tibet's vast mountain ranges, Kekexili: Mountain Patrol is a harsh reply to the poetic awe that the Fifth Generation classics found in similarly uninviting landscapes. A journalist is embedded with a posse of vigilantes hired (but rarely paid) by the government to track down antelope poachers. He accompanies them on a grim manhunt as they seek vengeance for a murder of one of their own — a blood feud that leaves most of them dead and the journalist's idealism more than a little deflated. Unlike Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou et al., director Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death) finds not grace in nature so much as grimly Darwinian struggle, a pervasive violence all the more brutally ironic given the land's extraordinary, unapproachable beauty. "As tough and unsparing as its backdrop, a blood-boiling environmental thriller with a dash of Sergio Leone. Filled with strange and horrible visions, it draws you in again and again [with] set pieces that distill the story's life-and-death struggle to its essence" (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times).