Manakamana

For this novel exercise in art cinema and ethnography, directors Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez parked their camera in a cable car as it transported various tourists and natives back and forth across the hills of Nepal, to and from the Hindu shrine of Manakamana. Travelers chitchat or stare silently at the passing scenery as these ten- to 20-minute journeys unfold in single takes; a picture window behind them frames the rolling terrain as the car climbs or descends, jolted every now and then as it passes the tall towers supporting the cable line. The hypnotic pull of this perpetual movement will vary with each viewer; I was captivated for more than an hour, though after the directors had tried every possible variation—one take features a carload of unhappy goats—my attention began to shift toward the passengers’ bland, unrevealing dialogue. As with most trips, I was glad I took this one and equally glad when it was over. In English and subtitled Nepali.