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Michael Palin - Himalaya [DVD]
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104 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2004
If you've been following Michael Palin's Himalayan excursions on the television, then you'll know almost exactly what you're getting here. If you haven't, but have been a spectator to some of Palin's other epic voyages, you may find that his approach to the Himalayas is a little less frenetic than, say his round the world trips. Given the dominance of the mountain range and the lack of oxygen, a slightly more laid back approach is understandable.
Michael Palin does what he always does - he acts like a thoroughly decent human being, good humoured, good natured, absorbed by the people and country around him. In an era where holidaying has become an excuse for booze, sex, and coarse behaviour, regimented by airlines, tour operators, and the lure of grotesque theme parks, Palin again demonstrates that travel and adventure can be a gentlemanly, gentle act. He conveys a polite humanity and sense of wonder, proving that you can travel the world without glossy brochures. For most people, simply being there might be excitement enough, but Palin finds mini adventuresa plenty ... with local herdsmen, school kids, or simply sitting on a train.
The landscape dominates the whole trip. It is the ultimate landscape, the roof of the world, but it's a landscape wounded by conflict. Palin counterbalances the warfare by interviewing the Dali Lama. He doesn't take sides, he doesn't judge, but you get a sense of his exasperation - surely peace is easier that war?
Palin clowns, he observes, he listens, he describes. The camera work picks out the visual wonders of the land. It's the sort of production which makes your mouth water and your feet start to itch, the sort of production which has you pouring over maps and deciding you won't be going to Belgium for your holidays this year.
Beautifully shot and produced, Palin his usual charming self - this is a delight from start to finish. It's stimulating, it's entertaining, and it's excellent value with three discs giving you the television series plus some entertaining extras.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2005
If you've been following Michael Palin's Himalayan excursions on the television, then you'll know almost exactly what you're getting here. If you haven't, but have been a spectator to some of Palin's other epic voyages, you may find that his approach to the Himalayas is a little less frenetic than, say his round the world trips. Given the dominance of the mountain range and the lack of oxygen, a slightly more laid back approach is understandable.
Michael Palin does what he always does - he acts like a thoroughly decent human being, good humoured, good natured, absorbed by the people and country around him. In an era where holidaying has become an excuse for booze, sex, and coarse behaviour, regimented by airlines, tour operators, and the lure of grotesque theme parks, Palin again demonstrates that travel and adventure can be a gentlemanly, gentle act. He conveys a polite humanity and sense of wonder, proving that you can travel the world without glossy brochures. For most people, simply being there might be excitement enough, but Palin finds mini adventuresa plenty ... with local herdsmen, school kids, or simply sitting on a train.
The landscape dominates the whole trip. It is the ultimate landscape, the roof of the world, but it's a landscape wounded by conflict. Palin counterbalances the warfare by interviewing the Dali Lama. He doesn't take sides, he doesn't judge, but you get a sense of his exasperation - surely peace is easier that war?
Palin clowns, he observes, he listens, he describes. The camera work picks out the visual wonders of the land. It's the sort of production which makes your mouth water and your feet start to itch, the sort of production which has you pouring over maps and deciding you won't be going to Belgium for your holidays this year.
Beautifully shot and produced, Palin his usual charming self - this is a delight from start to finish. It's stimulating, it's entertaining, and it's excellent value with three discs giving you the television series plus some entertaining extras.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2006
Actually, I think I liked the first three of Michael Palin's travelogues ("Around the World in 80 Days", "Pole to Pole" and "Full Circle") better than the three that follow ("Hemingway Adventure", "Sahara" and "Himalaya"). So from that point of view it's not correct to call "Himalaya" the high point of Michael Palin's career.

The big difference is that each of the first three series was documenting a trip made by Michael Palin, and the trip itself was the central element that provided a focal point for the TV series.

In the last three series, and especially in "Himalaya", one gets the feeling that the traveling was secondary, and that the purpose of the whole exercise was primarily to find places and people and events that would make "good TV".

"Himalaya" was, of course, a fantastic trip, and the TV series that covers it is very interesting. Many countries around the Himalayan Mountains were visited, some of them well off the tourist track and some of them with security problems such that the team needed armed guards. Specifically, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Nagaland, Assam, Bhutan and Bangladesh were visited. A total of 3000 miles was traveled during 125 days (4 months), and many beautiful and exciting images, encounters and interviews resulted.

Some of the best parts in the series include Michael Palin making several treks on foot up into the mountains, the highest trek going to Everest Base Camp at 5480 m (18000 ft). Well done, considering that Michael was 60 when he did the trip.

Other high points (ha, ha) include visiting the Dalai Lama, milking a yak, talking to a retired headhunter, buying booze in Pakistan, having an almost-encounter with Maoists in Nepal and sailing off into the sunset in the Bay of Bengal. All situations where the special Michael Palin wit and charm comes through strongly.

The down side is that it all seems a bit too artificial, a bit too motivated by "is this good TV?" The traveling itself is hardly mentioned at all, and in reality the filming and traveling was done in several visits to the area over a period of 11 months. Nor is there a continuous route from start to finish; instead Michael and the team seem to jump back and forth from place to place in order to find the elusive "good TV" locations and events.

The DVD version of the TV series is on three discs containing the six one-hour programs. In addition there is the following extra material:

- an introduction by Michael Palin, 3 minutes.
- 125 minutes of additional scenes - mixed quality, some good, some not so interesting.
- an interview with Michael Palin, 27 minutes, very good.

Highly recommended. Despite my negative feelings about the producers focusing on finding "good TV" instead of focusing on the trip as an undertaking, this is, of course, really good TV.

Rennie Petersen
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2001
The film is definately worth watching. It gives the viewer a deeper insight to the daily lives of the salt traders. But more than that the film contains most spectatular pictures and views of the Himalayas and tibetan settlements. I saw this film while i was in Nepal and was amazed by it and went several times. Although the storyline is a little disjointed the film is informative, humourous and a cinema classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I have been a fan of Michael Palin's travel series for a while now and this is my favourite of all of them. In Himalaya, Michael Palin travels through this highly mountainous, and in places troubled, region going from the Khyber Pass through Pakistan, India, Tibet, China, Bangladesh and more. Along the way Michael meets the usual group of weird and wonderful people and visits many beautiful and fascinating places.

I have long been fascinated by the Himalayas and this series takes a wonderful look at the area as a whole and the people who live there. Michael Palin is always interesting and funny, seemingly able to put everyone he meets at ease and he is in top form for Himalaya. The DVD also includes interviews with Michael Palin from before and after his trip as well as some extended scenes, all of which are interesting. In my view, although Sahara is a close second, Himalaya is the best documentary Michael Palin has produced and is one of my favourite documentaries of all time.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2001
I have seen this movie in the cinema - the landscapes are breathtaking and well filmed, the story is touching, costums in vibrant colors and the music is wonderful - especially if you have been to Nepal, you will very much enjoy this film. All ethnic details seem exact.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This film has some of most breathtaking scenery ever filmed. Shot high up in a remote area of the Himalayas that has seen very few foreigners, it focuses on the Tibetan people who live in an area of the mountains called Dolpo. These people are referred to as Dolpopas. The love that the director, Eric Valli, has for this region of the world is palpable with the loving care and attention to detail that is lavished on this production. Shot at heights of up to 17,400 feet, this film is a tremendous achievement both cinematically and historically, as it locks in time a little known culture and way of life.
The story, which is based upon real life events, details a generational struggle between the young and the old. The storyline is simple. This isolated village is dependent upon trading its salt for grain, so that the village may survive. To do so, a caravan of yaks must make an arduous trek through the Himalayan Mountains to Nepal to effect such a trade. When one such caravan returns to the village, the caravan chief, is dead, and his body has been brought back to the village by his best friend, Karma. The dead chief's father and tribal council memeber, Tinle, crazed with grief, suspects Karma of having brought about his son's death in an attempt to take his place as chief of the caravan. His dead son has left behind a beautiful wife, Pema, whom Karma covets, and a young son, whom Tinle wants designated as chief, despite his youth.
This sets into play a power struggle between Tinle and Karma, both of whom are headstrong and wilful. After the traditional sky burial for the dead caravan chief, this clash of wills results in two seperate caravans setting out on the salt trading trek. One is led by Karma who, accompanied by the village youth, defiantly leads his caravan out of the village before the date designated by the village lamas. The other is led by Tinle, who has persuaded his other son, Norbou, a Buddhist monk, to assist him. Accompanied by the elders of his village, as well as by his dead son's widow and young son, Tinle follows tradition and leaves on the date that the lamas have designated as being most propitious for the difficult journey. The film details each of the respective journeys, as well as the continuing battle of wills between the two leaders. The risks that Tinle takes on the journey in order to to catch up with Karma, is captured in all its starkly beautiful, cinematic majesty and will leave viewers sitting on the edge of their seats.
Set against a breathtaking backdrop of Himalayan beauty, this is a must see film. The performances by those in lead roles are compelling. Thilen Lhondup, a real life former yak man who had fled Tibet during its invasion by China, is charismatic and powerful as Tinle. Gurgon Kyap imbues the role of the headstrong Karma with a youthful vigor and machismo. Lhakpa Tsamchoe, an exotic beauty who hails from Southern India by way of Tibetan parents, is wonderfully serene in the role of Pema. Karma Wangel is absolutely adorable as Tinle's grandson and will steal the viewers' hearts.
Anthropologically rich and visually beautiful, it took the director nine months to film this movie. The daunting logistics, the unpredictable weather, and the use of mostly non-actors contributed to this being a time consuming project. In order to mainatain as much authenticity as possible, this film was shot entirely on location and the villagers even wore their own clothing in the film. The director's care and effort paid off, however, as this is one of the most stunningly beautiful films ever made. The musical score by Bruno Coulais is haunting, capturing the soaring majesty of the region, as well as some of its mystique. It also offers what I believe to be Tibetan throat singing, a somewhat esoteric form of singing/chanting not often heard in the western world.
This film, which was first released under the title "Caravan", was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2000. I believe that it lost to Pedro Almodovar's film, "About My Mother", which is also an excellent movie. Having seen both films, however, there is no doubt in my mind that Valli's film should have been the one to walk away with the Academy Award.
This is a must have film for those who are interested other cultures, the Himalayas, and, quite simply, a great movie.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent is a word which underestimates this "Journey of Understanding". Michael Palin excells in this BBC travelogue with insights even a person like me ( born in that part of the world) found exhillerating. I envy the oppurtunities he's had to travel and in my opinion ranks among the best travellaire/documentors of "human" exploratory knowledge.
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on 22 March 2011
Before I ordered this DVD set, I had heard of Michael Palin 'adventures' across the Himalayas and was expecting something exciting. I wasn't disappointed.

After a brief introduction, where Michael Palin informs us that he celebrated his 60th birthday before the actual filming for the series began, the journey begins at the Khyber Pass with some spectacular photography: the videos have been edited with finesse, but then one expects that from the BBC. However, I did notice that like in all such presentations - especially "New Europe by Michael Palin", there is always an appropriate guide, an assistant, an expert waiting patiently to help Michael as he travels. Although, I can understand it is essential that these arrangements be made beforehand to increase our 'viewing pleasure', but I feel spontaneity might have added to the charm of the presentation. Moreever, I do feel that the connection between episodes is not very subtle and one feels that one is actually watching individual episodes rather a continuous "journey across the Himalayas" as is actually the case.

The DVDs are held firmy in a sturdy jewel-case, which is easy to add to a DVD collection, since it is the same size albeit slightly fatter than a normal DVD case.

So, sit back, switch on your TV (a large LED/LCD/Plasma display is needed to fully appreciate the photography)and travel 'along' the Himalayas with Michael Palin.

Go for it, worth the money. My only regret is that this is not available in Blu-ray!!
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on 10 January 2014
Michael Palin's "Himalaya" was very interesting entertainment though I must admit that the areas he visited would not be everyone's cup of tea. I, personally would not enjoy visiting these areas nor experiencing these cultures, though I do have friends who do. The scenery is beautiful, especially the Everest area and Michael's presentation is excellent. This DVD allowed me to gain some knowledge of the area without having to go there. The fact that it is a BBC documentary adds to the professional nature of the disc.
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