The Horse Thief


Action / Drama

IMDb Rating 7.1 10 913


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March 08, 2019 at 02:19 AM


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723.68 MB
24 fps
1hr 28 min
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24 fps
1hr 28 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by zzmale 10 / 10

cautious attempt of contemporary criticism

The theme behind this movie is the same as that of Ben Ming Nian (1990) directed by Mr. Fei Xie: criminals trying to go straight but are forced to go back to the old ways for survival due to lack of opportunities.

The theme reflected the problem of current society, and the problem started in the 1980's. As one of his early works and the political climates of China back then, it is understandable that the director adopted the cautious approach by using remote region such as Tibet and time setting that is more than half a century ago. One really needs to acknowledge the problem of current China (and in fact, the problem of many countries), in order to discover the link between the movie and its subtle attempt to criticize the contemporary society.

Reviewed by maxastree 7 / 10

Basic story competes with beautiful cinematography, Tibetan cultural immersion

I found out about this film via Mark Cousin's well regarded "The Story of Film: an Odyssey", when he outlined some of the strongest features of the 80s.

The Horse Thief is a strikingly shot immersion into the unique, isolated and overwhelmingly spiritual culture of traditional Tibet, a country of snow laden plains and remote agrarian village life.

The nominal plot focuses on Norbu, a thief who is excommunicated from his tribe, to live in the harsh Tibetan hinterlands with this wife and child. Even his elders disdain him, and appear to show no sympathy for his crimes.

The tribe worships a local mountain deity for providence, but during an outbreak of disease many animals and family members suffer, some terminally. Norbu's family is allowed back into tribal society although his penalty is death, and there appears to be no alternative in the mid winter Tibetan snowfields.

The film's plot is almost overshadowed by the cinematography and focus on Tibetan civilization; their religious rites, celebrations, trading and working life all feature throughout. Parts of the "story" are presented as a dreamy montage of dancers, elemental images and Tibetan masks, with Buddhist themes of death and rebirth enacted by the cast, which is one of the exceptionally interesting things about the movie.

Its not really an epic film, and the actual scripted dialogue is pretty sparse, but worth seeing especially if you have a projector or similar large-screen display.

Reviewed by leoperu 7 / 10

Quiet ballad of an outcast, with accompaniment of prayer wheels

I cannot help thinking that Tian Zhuangzhuang is not only the least appreciated of the great contemporary Chinese directors, but also the least talented - his films (that is, the three that I have seen) made a lesser impression on me than, let's say, the works of Jia Zhangke or the nineties' output of Zhang Yimou.

"Lan feng zheng" (The Blue Kite), a socio-critical portrait of life in Communist China, seems a bit too static in its quiet, sober realism, with the director's continuous effort to charge Maoism tending to veil everything else ; only in the last segment the movie became truly touching for me.

In "Xiao cheng zhi chun" (Springtime in a Small Town) a couple of characters are, zombie-like, dragging past ornamental decorations of dilapidating claustrophobic interiors, or alternately walking on ruins of an ancient city wall ; I found this hardly anything more than a rather boring, banal quasi-Chekhovian étude.

The last - in fact, the oldest - of the three, "Dao ma zei" (The Horse Thief), is quite different. Minimalistic in plot and dialogues, it might be described as a sort of ethnographic documentary with touches of folk ballad : lyrical cinema close to some works of the Armenian Parajanov, albeit, to my regret, lacking his emotional power. Tibetan nature is the vamp of the movie, local religion + magic its core. The former I do savour, the latter I struggle to grasp, owing to the fact that my knowledge of it is considerably limited.

The last reason why I don't praise "The Horse Thief" as Scorsese did, may lie in the quality of the Chinese region-free disc (gzbeauty). Nevertheless, the non-anamorphic image from an old print, dirty and scratched, is better than I expected. It can be zoomed to proper OAR 2,35:1 on my player, though there's no room for subtitles then. For second viewing, they are not necessary anyway.

For those who liked "The Horse Thief" but felt deprived of the epic/action element, I would recommend "Kekexili" (Mountain Patrol) by Tian's compatriot Lu Chuan.

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