April 9, 2021
Few artists embody the tug-of-war between modernity and tradition, like filmmaker Khyentse Norbu. On the one hand, the Bhutan native is a key religious figure, a reincarnated lama recognized by the Sakya school, one of Tibetan Buddhism’s major sects. On the other hand, Norbu, once a consultant to Italian Oscar-winner Bernardo Bertolucci, helped bring the filmmaking industry to Bhutan with his second feature, the Dzongkha-language Travelers and Magicians (2003), the first film shot entirely in the country.
Norbu’s latest, the vivid, introspective drama Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache — a Nepalese, Singaporean, and Mexican co-production — takes place in Nepal and follows Tenzin (Tsering Tashi Gyalthang), a young lute player and entrepreneur, who hopes to open the fanciest coffee shop in Kathmandu for tourists and expats. He often scoffs at his compatriots and their superstitions, but visions of dead relatives and mysterious women in marigold fields torment him. His reluctant search for spiritual calm leads him to a zany Buddhist monk (Tulku Ngawang Tenzin), who — decked out in dark glasses, fancy headphones, and a handheld tablet — answers Tenzin’s queries by turning to “His Holiness, omniscient Google.”