7.2/10
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12 user 7 critic

The Horse Thief (1986)

Dao ma zei (original title)
The story of Norbu, a horse thief, who is thrown out of his tribe in an effort to purge it of evil. Norbu repents after the birth of his son, but he is forced to steal again after the birth... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Daiba ...
Granny
Jiji Dan ...
Dolma, wife
Drashi ...
Grandfather
Gaoba ...
Nowre
Jamco Jayang ...
Tashi, son
Rigzin Tseshang ...
Norbu
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Storyline

The story of Norbu, a horse thief, who is thrown out of his tribe in an effort to purge it of evil. Norbu repents after the birth of his son, but he is forced to steal again after the birth of a second son. Written by International Film Circuit <ifcplanet@aol.com>

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6 January 1988 (USA)  »

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The Horse Thief  »

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2.35 : 1
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Trivia

Number 1 on Martin Scorsese's top 10 movies of the 90s list, which he presented on a special episode of At the Movies with Roger Ebert. Even though the movie was made and released in the 80s, it gain traction in the US during the 90s. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Quiet ballad of an outcast, with accompaniment of prayer wheels
7 April 2013 | by (Czech Republic) – See all my reviews

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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