Everything that has a beginning has an end

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On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh

Two years ago, for the very first time, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics invited filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis into their monasteries to witness their practice and the essence of their mindful living.

Filming in the depths of winter in their monastery in France, they also traveled on the road with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastics to Europe and North America; capturing their journey from Vancouver to Mississippi, New York, Washington, San Diego and London.

Through intimate interviews and observational filming, “Walk With Me – On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh”, offers a rare insight into monastic life and the deeply personal reasons why Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns decided to leave their families and follow in his footsteps.

Honest and heart-warming, ‘Walk With Me’ touches on the universal themes of belonging, love, loss, hope and death; relevant for not just Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns but for us all.

This documentary is currently being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. If distributors are found it should be released sometime in 2017.

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An artist trying to find his way through the darkness *

“Most of us don’t want to change

Really

I mean why should we

What we do want is sort of modifications on the original model

We keep on being ourselves

But hopefully better versions of ourselves

But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic

That you just change

Change from the known person to the unknown person

So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were

But the person inside the skin is a different person”

*One More Time With Feeling


Story of Your Life

 

‘Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.

Your dad and I have just come back from an evening out, dinner and a show; it’s after midnight. We came out onto the patio to look at the full moon; then I told your dad I wanted to dance, so he humors me and now we’re slow-dancing, a pair of thirtysomethings swaying back and forth in the moon-light like kids. I don’t feel the night chill at all. And then your dad says, “Do you want to make a baby?”

Right now your dad and I have been married for about two years, living on Ellis Avenue; when we move out you’ll still be too young to remember the house, but we’ll show you pictures of it, tell you stories about it. I’d love to tell you the story of this evening, the night you’re conceived, but the right time to do that would be when you’re ready to have children of your own, and we’ll never get that chance.

Telling it to you any earlier wouldn’t do any good; for most of your life you won’t sit still to hear such a romantic—you’d say sappy—story. I remember the scenario of your origin you’ll suggest when you’re twelve.

“The only reason you had me was so you could get a maid you wouldn’t have to pay,” you’ll say bitterly, dragging the vacuum cleaner out of the closet.

“That’s right,” I’ll say. “Thirteen years ago I knew the carpets would need vacuuming around now, and having a baby seemed to be the cheapest and easiest way to get the job done. Now kindly get on with it.”

“If you weren’t my mother, this would be illegal,” you’ll say, seething as you unwind the power cord and plug it into the wall outlet.

That will be in the house on Belmont Street. I’ll live to see strangers occupy both houses: the one you’re conceived in and the one you grow up in. Your dad and I will sell the first a couple years after your arrival.

I’ll sell the second shortly after your departure. By then Nelson and I will have moved into our farmhouse, and your dad will be living with what’s-her-name.

I know how this story ends; I think about it a lot. I also think a lot about how it began, just a few years ago, when ships appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows. The government said next to nothing about them, while the tabloids said every possible thing.

And then I got a phone call, a request for a meeting.”

 – Excerpt from the beginning of Ted Chiang’s, ‘Story of Your Life’

 

 

“What I love about the short story is that it has a lot of layers,” [The film’s director] Villeneuve explains, referencing Ted Chiang‘s “Story of Your Life,” which Eric Heisserer adapted into feature-length form.

 “One of them that deeply touched me is this idea that someone is in contact with death.

What would happen if you know how you will die, when you will die?

What will your relationship with life, love, your family and friends, and with your society be?

By being more in relationship with death, in an intimate way with the nature of life and its subtleties, it would bring us more humility.

Humanity needs that humility right now.

We are in an era with a lot of narcissism.

We are at the point where we are dangerously disconnected from nature.

That’s what this beautiful short story was for me –a way to get back into a relationship with death and nature, and the mystery of life.”


A Culture Broken Open By Its Own Consequence

“We hear it everywhere these days.

Time for a new story.

Some enthusiastic sweep of narrative that becomes, overnight, the myth of our times.

A container for all this ecological trouble, this peak-oil business, this malaise of numbness that seems to shroud even the most privileged.

A new story.

Just the one.

That simple.

Painless.

Everything solved.

Lovely and neat.

So, here’s my first moment of rashness: I suggest the stories we need turned up, right on time, about five thousand years ago.

But they’re not simple, neat or painless.

This mantric urge for a new story is actually the tourniquet for a less articulated desire: to behold the Earth-actually-speaking-through-words again, something far more potent than a shiny, never contemplated agenda.

As things stand, I don’t believe we will get a story worth hearing until we witness a culture broken open by its own consequence.” 

  –  Martin Shaw, Small Gods

 

“Psyche, Hillman said, is not in us; we are in psyche.

And I believe that if psyche is shaped by myth, by mythical images and symbols, then myth is not in us: we are, in some deep and indefinable sense, in myth.

‘It is not we who imagine, but we who are imagined.’

What if we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us?”

Sharon Blackie, The re-enchantment of psychology: or, why we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us

 

Julian Reed,

“One of my favorite aesthetic sources is the work of the great Danish film director Lars von Trier.

His movie Melancholia depicts brilliantly the conflict between two very different types of human subjectivity.

On the one hand, the affirmative subjectivity of Justine (played by Kirsten Dunst), who is the main character of the movie and sees the coming of the end of the world and addresses that in a way that allows her to live a beautiful life on her last days.

There is a wonderful contrast in the film between the affirmative and poetic subjectivity of Justine, and then the hysterical and neurotic subjectivity of her sister, Claire, played brilliantly by Charlotte Gainsbourg.”

 

 

“When you read the reviews of Melancholia, or even the scholarship on it, you continually encounter this description of Justine as depressed and as a melancholic individual.

But actually, if you watch the film, the discourse around Justine is one of depression.

Her sister, family, friends and colleagues continually describe her as depressed.

She is someone who is diagnosed as depressed, but if you look at her actions and her way of being, I think she is actually very well.

She is the healthiest person in the film.

For me, that is one of the brilliant things about the movie.

The care and genius with which von Trier depicts the actuality of Justine’s subjectivity in contrast with — and in antagonism with — the discourse which surrounds her.

Which is precisely one of depression.

She is diagnosed as depressed by people who really are fundamental, hysterical and neurotic, and most importantly, her sister.”

     –  Julian Reid on the Rise of Resilience

 

 


“We have to be very grateful for very small details of life”

Jim Jarmusch, who has a unique cinematic vision, has a new film that has had its debut at Cannes this week titled ‘Paterson’.  For me most of his recent films have a poetic aspect to them in that they paint a picture involving the characters that inhabit each of them as opposed to being structured in a strictly narrative form. This latest effort continues in that vein in that it is a story of a bus driver who quietly listens and observes his surroundings with the heart of a poet. Partially influenced by the work of contemporary poet Ron Padgett, the character Paterson composes poems based on the small details of life.

Here is an example of Padgett’s work

“The morning coffee.I’m not sure why I drink it. Maybe it’s the ritual of the cup, the spoon, the hot water, the milk, and the little heap of brown grit, the way they come together to form a nail I can hang the
day on. It’s something to do between being asleep and being awake. Surely there’s something better to do, though, than to drink a cup of instant coffee. Such as meditate? About what? About having a cup of
coffee. A cup of coffee whose first drink is too hot and whose last drink is too cool, but whose many in-between drinks are, like Baby Bear’s porridge, just right. Papa Bear looks disgruntled. He removes his spectacles and swivels his eyes onto the cup that sits before Baby Bear, and then,
after a discrete cough, reaches over and picks it up. Baby Bear doesn’t understand this disruption of the morning routine. Papa Bear brings
the cup close to his face and peers at it intently. The cup shatters in his paw, explodes actually, sending fragments and brown liquid all over the
room. In a way it’s good that Mama Bear isn’t there. Better that she rest in her grave beyond the garden, unaware of what has happened to the world.”

Prose Poem (‘The morning coffee.’)  Ron Padgett

Jarmusch in an interview described the relationship portrayed in the film between Paterson and his wife, who spends her days in creative pursuits as

“ a portrait of a very tender love of people who accept each other for who they are. Only Lovers Left Alive was very much the same. The pure form of love is letting people be who they are. It’s a Buddhist thing to be accepting.”

In the same interview he does not ignore the larger world we inhabit but leaves this small tale of two lovers as a poignant reminder of how we can bring beauty to our world even as catastrophe is upon us.

“There are things wrong in this world. The way people treat each other. For us human beings, time is limited on this planet. There are too many people and nature is soon going to rectify this. It is going to be difficult and tragic. We are already in the 6th mass extinction of species. We have to be very grateful for very small details of life. Like this moment here. Here we are talking about a film and it is just a ridiculous thing.”

Please read the rest of the interview here.

Finally it is always a treat for me to hear Jarmusch and his ensemble discuss the films. His graciousness and thoughtfulness toward his partners and those who ask or comment ab0ut his films is very inspiring. For those who enjoy press conferences, please see the short video below.


The Pearl Button – Now Streaming

 

Patricio Guzman’s remarkable film recently had its premier in the UK and is now streaming online in the US via Netflix and Fandor.

“If “water has its own language,” as anthropologist Claudio Mercado says, so too does Guzmán as a filmmaker. His work speaks to the past and present, the living and the dead with equal resolve, lingering on the seemingly small details of memory that allude to so much more.”  – Glenn Heath Jr


The Pearl Button

 

“After the acclaimed Nostalgia for the Light (2010), with its study of the desert, the stars, light and time, as well as the recent memory and remains of disappeared people in North Chile under Pinochet, Patricio Guzmán takes us on a journey into the water and ocean of Southern Chile.”

In anticipation of its October 2015 release, a few brief excerpts of ‘The Pearl Button’ have been released.

 

“The sea holds all the voices of the earth and those that come from outer space. Water receives impetus from the stars and transmits it to living creatures. Water, the longest border in Chile, also holds the secret of two mysterious buttons which were found on its ocean floor.”

“Chile, with its 2,670 miles of coastline and the largest archipelago in the world, presents a supernatural landscape. In it are volcanoes, mountains and glaciers. In it are the voices of the Patagonian Indigenous people and their tragic history, the first English sailors and also those of its political prisoners.”

 “Some say that water has memory. This film gives it a voice”

“Using both archival images and gorgeous new footage, The Pearl Button manages once again to convey different periods of history and geography in a gripping tale of our modern world.”


The Pearl Button

“In order to talk about profound tragedies, genocide that takes place, looking at Palestine or Syria, talking about Chile or Argentina indeed for that matter, it’s very important to use metaphor because metaphor is very expressive, very evocative. We’ve seen images of mass graves, we’ve seen images of the Nazi concentration camps and that has been with us for quite a while already. Nowadays we still need to talk abut these events, but it is perhaps best explained in an indirect way using the language of poetry. I think it is indispensable, in a way, to seek out that language when talking about these phenomena because it is also important to speak about pain and this is a very effective way to do it.”

Patricio Guzman

 

Embedded in the image above is a brief clip of Patricio Guzman’s ‘The Pearl Button’, a companion to his 2010 film ‘Nostalgia for the Light‘. Yesterday he won best screenplay for his film at the Berlin International Film Festival, which is very unusual for a documentary to win such an award. I would expect this to arrive in cinemas before the years end.

Guzman is a poet who in assembling his films creates connections using metaphor to complement historical and scientific evidence that along with his compelling images makes for a powerful and resonant experience. His previous film drew connections between the stars seen through powerful telescopes in the Chilean desert, to the (star) dust floating in our air, to the dust of the ‘disappeared’ from Pinochet’s terror whose remains became part of that same desert – all interwoven in a meditation on memory.

 

 

I think that life is memory, everything is memory. There is no present time and everything in life is remembering. I think memory encompasses all life, and all the mind. I’m not simply me—I’m my father and all that came before me, who are millions. Nostalgia for the Light sprung from this concept. It involves body and soul but also matter, the earth, the cosmos, all combined.

But there’s a constant contradiction between memory and history. It’s a conflict. The official Chilean historical record in regard to the 1973 coup d’état is a disaster. For nearly forty years now there has been denial of memory (like there was in Spain too after Franco’s death).”

Patricio Guzman

 

 ‘The Pearl Button’

‘The Pearl Button’ revolves not around the theme of dust but of water – around the idea that comets first brought water to this planet, that Chile’s largest border is ocean, that only 20 people remain from five indigenous tribes who lived on the coast that were decimated by colonial invaders. This same ocean is where the Pinochet regime dumped over a thousand bodies of people who were declared enemies of the state. Guzman continues his meditation on the idea of memory suggesting that water has a memory. It remembers those who perished in it. It and we are seeded from the stars just as we are made of stardust, he reminds us that our bodies are also mostly water. This film is also a meditation on how not only Chile but our modern civilization has lost its connection to the intrinsic value of our world, to its people and to its surroundings. If water has a memory then it is also a witness to our sorrowful history, whether we choose to remember it or not.

 

(references to 2 film reviews from the Berlin festival used for this post are here and here)

September 11

 

For his new film master director Patricio Guzmán, famed for his political documentaries (THE BATTLE OF CHILE, THE PINOCHET CASE), travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert, where atop the mountains astronomers from all over the world gather to observe the stars. The sky is so translucent that it allows them to see right to the boundaries of the universe.

The Atacama is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; 19th century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, “disappeared” by the Chilean army after the military coup of September, 1973.

film still

So while astronomers examine the most distant and oldest galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women, surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here, search, even after twenty-five years, for the remains of their loved ones, to reclaim their families’ histories.

Melding the celestial quest of the astronomers and the earthly one of the women, NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is a gorgeous, moving, and deeply personal odyssey.

“NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is not only Guzmán’s masterpiece; it is one of the most beautiful cinematographic efforts we have seen for a long time. Its complex canvas is woven with the greatest simplicity. For forty years, Patricio Guzman has had to struggle every inch of the way, with a vivid memory and intimate suffering to reach this work of cosmic serenity, of luminous intelligence, with a sensitivity that could melt stone. At such a level, the film becomes more than a film. An insane accolade to mankind, a stellar song for the dead, a life lesson. Silence and respect.” —Jacques Mandelbaum, Le Monde

film still

“Stunningly beautiful. I don’t know how you can put more into a film, or make one that’s more deeply moving.” —Stuart Klawans, The Nation

“An extraordinary film about the unknown and the unknowable.” —Sight & Sound Magazine

“An amazing film! Nostalgia for the Light gave me goosebumps so many times I lost count.” —Andy “Copernicus” Howell, Ain’t It Cool News

“Deeply Affecting!” Critics Pick —New York Magazine

“Such a moving masterpiece… NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is Guzmán’s leap into a different sort of cinema: a philosophical treatise that is as stunning to the eye as it is disturbing to the brain… I was enthralled. So was the audience around me.” —B. Ruby Rich, SF360

★★★★ “NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT may just be the most profound movie I have ever seen.” —Peter Howell, Toronto Star

★★★★ “The ideas in NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT are nearly as big as the Big Bang, but Guzmán’s wise and lovely film maintains a careful balance between matters both macro and micro.” —Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly

“The film is gorgeous, purposefully slow, almost a meditation. Guzmán tells us life in the Atacama Desert is an eternal book of memories. And he lingers on every page, capturing shots of constellations with the care of a master photographer. Imagine Ansel Adams, working in colour, let loose in the Milky Way.” —Stephen Cole, The Globe and Mail

★★★1/2 “Combining politics and science in a stirring visual essay… Highly Recommended” —Video Librarian

Winner, Award of Merit in Film, 2012 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Official Selection, 2012 Western Psychological Association Film Festival Winner, Best Film, 2011 International Documentary Association (IDA) Winner Best Documentary, Prix ARTE, 2010 European Film Academy Awards Winner Best Documentary, 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival Official Selection, 2010 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, 2010 Toronto International Film Festival Official Selection, 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival Official Selection, 2011 Miami International Film Festival Official Selection, 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival


Exploring the Human Condition with Alejandro Jodorowsky

THE JODOROWSKY CONSTELLATION from neovision on Vimeo.

“Jodorowsky is insanely talented. Quite literally, he is talented to the point of madness. But as with all madmen, there is a method to his madness. He’s a mathematical madman.  He is a divine madman. He’s a constructivist madman. And this madness, this intelligence, this talent — for there is no talent without madness — find their unique expression in directing. I believe.”  – Fernando Arrabal

 

 

“There are those who make film for money. There are others that make film for the adventure or ego of it all. But then there is the most special kind of filmmaker—the true artist. That rare kind of maverick who is so driven by total, unsullied heart, soul and vision that such mainstream cinema conceits like compromise and whoredom are completely out of the question. These are the artists that truly love us because they respect us enough to never lie, never condescend and never ever play you for a fool. There is no living filmmaker today that defines all of this and more better than Alejandro Jodorowsky.”

“The way he approaches the story of both his childhood and his parents is fascinating. For anyone familiar with European filmmaker Louis Mouchet’s excellent 1994 documentary, La Constellation Jodorowsky, some of this technique will feel instantly familiar. In La Constellation, you see Jodorowsky build a human tarot deck. Think less divination and more of a therapeutic “psychodrama” technique that utilizes the tarot as a means to reveal facets about your family, your past and yourself. That brief description does not truly do this justice, but The Dance of Reality has a feel that this is Jodorowsky using the medium of cinema to conduct his own personal human tarot reading”

“The phrase “cinema magic” is one whose power has faded from years of overuse and bad application. The Dance of Reality is the perfect film to re-infuse that tried and now true-again phrase. The magic of movie making vibrates with every frame of this film from one of the last truly innovative film maverick masters alive. Every movie lover worth his and her salt should have a little altar in their heart for Alejandro Jodorowsky.”

                                                                                                                                                       – Heather Drain (DangerousMinds)