The Velvet Queen: Snow Leopard review – a moving glimpse of nature’s private life | Documentary films

Clinging to the scree of a Tibetan peak, at an altitude of about 5,000 feet, the renowned nature photographer Vincent Munier schools writer Sylvain Tesson in the art of “the blind” in this stirring documentary. This entails hunkering down, waiting and hoping for a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. For Tesson, the experience is profoundly spiritual, as evidenced by his highly ornamental narration: “Prehistory wept,” he says at one point, “and each tear was one.”

While Tesson’s voiceover will not be for everyone, it’s impossible not to be moved by the cinematography, which captures the magnificent indifference of the natural world in triumphant widescreen – posturing stags, huffing steaming challenges at each other; surly bears eyeing their human stalkers; fat-faced Pallas’s cats terrorizing small rodents. A gorgeous, organic score from Warren Ellis is the thread that anchors Tesson’s somewhat hifalutin tangents to the stark drama of the landscape.

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