Shot on location in Nepal, Khyentse Norbu’s Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache resembles an extended confession at a Buddhist temple. If you happen to be in the mindset for a long, leisurely, spiritual cinematic rumination about the fragility of life, the futility of our professional pursuits, the power of femininity, and the sheer bliss of living in the moment, then delve right in. The writer and director’s aim is not to shock or devastate, nor elicit any strong reaction, but to make one ponder the Meaning of It All.
The ponytail-sporting Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang) has dreams of opening the coolest coffee shop in all of Nepal. He even finds a half-demolished building he wants to renovate, despite claims that it’s the ruins of a monastery. Tenzin and his friend Jachung (Tulku Kungzang) talk to a psychic monk (Ngawang Tenzin), who sports sunglasses and red headphones, and tells them to locate the elusive titular lady, or Tenzin will die in a week. While Jachung believes in the prediction wholeheartedly, Tenzin is skeptical but understandably troubled.
Eventually, Tenzin gets swept up in it all, finding it difficult to tell fantasy and reality apart, searching for the fanged lady, while getting spiritual advice delivered to him via extended sermons. He is told that he has “lost his Iha,” which means he can “no longer recognize the difference between bad and good,” and he attracts misfortune. Whether he eventually locates the lady or dies, or if that’s even the point, I’ll let you discover.
“…a psychhic monk…tells them to locate the elusive titular lady or die in a week.”
Norbu favors long, static shot compositions, relishing the silence inbetween words (of which, mind you, there are many). There are numerous, lengthy sequences of characters strumming the Dramyin, delivering sermons, and wandering around in deep contemplation. Its feminist motifs are lukewarm at best, overshadowed by the male protagonist’s journey of self-discovery (arguably spurred by the need for self-preservation and accumulation of wealth).
The filmmaker does find truth in details, such as Tenzin’s small living quarters, the way flower petals fall outside his window, the foggy majesty of the surrounding mountains, the endless Nepalese rooftops. Cinematographer Ping Bin Lee captures the otherworldly beauty of Nepal in all of its colorful splendor.
Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache is not without moments of humor, especially when it comes to the monk’s nonchalant approach. “You’ll be dead next Saturday,” he informs Tenzin dryly. “Try to die on Sunday instead.” He also refers to the “Omniscient Google” for answers and promises to give up his beloved headphones to Tanzin, if… well, I don’t want to spoil anything in a film that has next-to-no surprises.
You’d think a feature titled Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache and boasting the poster art that it does would be reminiscent of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s psychedelic craziness, but there’s nary a hallucinogenic mushroom to be found. Take that warning to heart (I didn’t and was consequently somewhat misled by the synopsis/artwork/title combo), and make sure to drink a lot of coffee before embarking on this search.
"…captures the otherworldly beauty of Nepal in all of its colorful splendor."