Here’s wagering that Cut Out the Eyes wasn’t made possible by a grant from the Mongolian Tourism Board.
Gritty and chaotic, the film follows wandering singer Er Houshen as he performs in the desolate, dirt-poor villages of Inner Mongolia. And by “dirt-poor”, we mean dust-blown, apocalyptic wastelands. Er, who pulls up with a battered mobile stage, specializes in er ren tai, which sounds like the exotic Far East, but boasts lyrics ripped from the pages of Parental Advisory rap.
Trading verses with musical partner Liu Lanlan, Er leaves the locals laughing with lines like “I want to be your lover/But I’m afraid your motherfucker man would cut my penis with a knife.” The twist is that Er—who is always seen wearing sunglasses—knows of what he sings. As the film unfolds, it’s revealed that he has had his eyes cut out by his fellow Mongolians, which is the price Lotharios traditionally pay for extramarital affairs.
Cut Out the Eyes isn’t exactly a feel-good film, and the grimness of the landscape and the hardships of the people eventually start to grind you down. Still, as a travelogue, it’s a fascinating look at a world you’d otherwise never see—to the chagrin, of course, of the Mongolian Tourism Board.
Vancity, May 7 (5 p.m.)