“Molom” is the splendidly lensed, free-form tale of an adorable young boy who , under the leisurely tutelage of a wizened spiritual guide, trades life with wolves on the Mongolian steppes for the lessons of Buddha. Serene, non-violent pic brims with exotic vistas and should appeal to kids of all ages whose attention spans haven’t been eroded by Western distractions.
In voiceover, Yonden (Yonde Junai) explains that Molom (Tseded) changed from an eagle into a man to teach him to seek the pearl at the heart of life.
Tyke and shaman form a playful partnership as they hike across the majestic steppes. Yonden’s casual apprenticeship makes “The Karate Kid” look like the boot-camp sequences of “Full Metal Jacket”– lessons, such as they are, penetrate by osmosis in natural settings.
The ethereal, spacey story is carried by the lensing, which boasts an unerring feel for the protagonists’ faces and the knockout landscape. Loose script took form as crew accompanied duo on trek.
When teacher and pupil reach civilization, the contrasts of Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Close to Eden” come to mind, although helmer does little more than present city life and monastery rituals and let viewers draw their own conclusions.
Pic was lensed in Mongolia and at Lake Baikal in the autonomous region of Buryat (in Siberia) by Marie Jaoul de Poncheville, a former documaker whose previous pix dealt with Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia. Traditional Mongolian folk tunes are pleasing, but John McLaughlin’s jazzier contributions are sometimes a tad too contemporary-sounding to mesh.