Cave of the Yellow Dog, The (US - DVD R1)
Gabe's heart melts right out of his chest and is lapped up by a little yellow dog...
The oldest daughter of a Mongolian nomad family finds a stray dog while collecting dung and brings it home. Her father rejects it, and in preparation for their seasonal move demands the girl take the dog back to the cave in which it was found.
Adult film critics have a strange habit of claiming they know what children will want to watch, when they really want adults to watch a film involving children. Westernized children today have very, very short attention spans, which isn't an entirely detrimental trait as they can 'download' information faster than we could when we were children (well, those of us who aren't children anymore). You can suggest as many heart-warming and beautiful epics as you want to them, but kids will want to watch joke a second stuff like Sponge Bob and Shrek.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog is a wonderful film, and as one of these youthfully detached grown-ups I want to make all the kids around me sit down and watch it. If I can't get them to sit through Star Wars, there is no way in Hell they're sitting though this meandering view of an entirely alien culture.
Now that we have all the truth about children taken care of, let’s talk about this film as adults that like adult films. The first thing anyone will notice about The Cave of the Yellow Dog is how effortlessly visually stunning it is. I'm not sure if it's possible to take a bad picture of this area of Mongolia, but director Byambasuren Davaa isn't taking any chances. If you're looking for a mesmerizing visual feast you've come to the right place.
If you're looking for an enthralling narrative experience you might be out of luck. If it wasn't for all the beautiful visuals, adorable children, and the loveable mutt, one might be forced to notice that there really isn't a story here, at least not one enough to fill ninety minutes. If you have no interest in process, you might've come to the wrong place.
If you're looking to be impressed with a film crew's unshakeable will to create a thematic experience from a documentary setting then you may be in luck after all. Some critics might complain about the film's lack of decisiveness. I admit, it's a little strange watching a film fluttering between narrative experience and documentation, but this is what makes The Cave of the Yellow Dog such a fascination. There are no actors, no sets, no cemented script, and yet here we have a touching tale of a girl and her dog.
The film's documentary aspects are actually quite fascinating in their own right. The simple daily duties and chores of these roaming anachronism are more enthralling than most of the narratively scripted, Hollywood films I've seen all year. It looks like hard work, but by the end of the film I almost wanted to give it a try, you know, so long as I had running water and electricity. It sounds silly, but the process of making goat cheese is captivating.
This really is a defiant cinematic experience, and the final film succeeds almost in spite of itself. I don't think Western kids are going to enjoy this film, at least not kids under the age of ten (and the skinning of a dead sheep will probably disturb them), but there are plenty of grown-ups out there that should at least rent the film for them regardless. After the wee ones wander off to play videogames or whatever, mom and dad can sit back and enjoy a truly original motion picture.
Whew. I was beginning to think Tartan USA had lost their touch after their last few Asian releases ( Sheitan actually looked fine). There are no obvious errors here to speak of. Colours are bright without sacrificing black levels, which are rich. Detail is sharp enough, but there are a few soft edges. There is some grain, but it's negligible and to be expected.
Whoops, I spoke too soon. It looks like quality control missed something again.
The film is presented in both DTS and Dolby Digital, and both the original Mongolian and dubbed English. The dubbed English is welcome for those that may want to make their little ones watch the flick, as subtitles would turn off even those children old enough to read. The dubbing isn't the best, so far as lip-sync, but the wording seems to be accurate. The problem is that the English track is only included in DTS. I'm sure there are a whole lot of families out there without a DTS decoder, or even a surround sound system at all. A Dolby English track (5.1 or 2.0) should've been supplied as well or instead.
The Mongolian DTS track has a rich soundscape, fuller and louder than the Dolby Digital track. There is a feeling of presence in both tracks, but the fidelity of the DTS track is very striking. There's one problem though—the DTS track is missing dialogue. How this can happen, I have no idea, but the track is sound effects and music only. This forced me to base my review on the Dolby Digital track, which is fine enough, but not as powerful overall.
This is a rather bare disc save one very informative interview with the film's director. Davaa speaks in German, so she is subtitled, which is good because the interview's sound is pretty low-fi. The interview answered pretty much every question I had about the film, and is probably preferable to a meandering, subtitled commentary track. The disc also houses a selection of Tartan trailers.
The Cave of the Yellow Dog is a fabulous film experience. Though lacking in plot, it is full of rich visuals, adorable children and dogs, and is an enthralling look at an alien life. I really don't see most children sitting through the film, but it's probably worth a try. The DVD looks great, and the minimal extras are enough, but the audio errors are just another in a growing line of strange errors from the company.
Review by Gabriel Powers
All ages admitted
Release Date: 13th February 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Mongolian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Mongolian, Dolby 2.0 Surround Mongolian, DTS 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Director Interview, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Byambasuren Davaa
Cast: Babbayar Batchuluun, Nansal Batchuluun, Nansalmaa Batchuluun, Buyandulam Daramdadi, Batchuluun Urjindorj
Length: 93 minutes
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