The Buddhist Trilogy

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released from Arrow and the films on them.

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subliminac
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 1:21 am
Location: Columbus, OH

The Buddhist Trilogy

#76 Post by subliminac » Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:25 am

Murdoch wrote:
colinr0380 wrote:
Sat Aug 17, 2019 11:28 am
I can confirm that this set is out in the wild now.
Meanwhile my Target order is in limbo...

Its currently $50 and change at Deep Discount with the DOGDAYS15 promotion, which is actually a few dollars cheaper than the Target price from over a year ago. I ended up cancelling the Target order since they could never give me a straight answer as to whether or not it would ever be fulfilled.

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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: The Buddhist Trilogy

#77 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:13 pm

Thanks for the tip!

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TwoTecs
Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:26 pm

Re: The Buddhist Trilogy

#78 Post by TwoTecs » Wed Aug 21, 2019 11:57 am

I am in Canada and had to order this, Apocalypse Now UHD, and Makhmalbaf's The Poetic Trilogy. The Deep Discount Tip saved me around $35 overall. Thank you.

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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: The Buddhist Trilogy

#79 Post by swo17 » Wed Aug 21, 2019 12:01 pm

Thank you for ordering the Makhmalbaf!

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Murdoch
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:59 pm
Location: Upstate NY

Re: The Buddhist Trilogy

#80 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:53 pm

I ended up ordering it through Google Express since you can buy it from Deep Discount through the app and get an extra 20% off for first time Express users

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Buddhist Trilogy

#81 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 29, 2019 5:34 pm

Although the title of this set clearly states that this will be a trilogy of Buddhist films, and in spite of my experience with the eccentricities of the Japanese New Wave, the way that the fundamentals of Buddhism are woven through the fabric of these works is with a perversity so sharp it bypasses all expectations for the subject. On the surface, the films inhibit a flowing, experimental technique with jarring stylistic choices interspersed erratically, similar to its content which is at once meditative and also soaked in uncomfortable stabbings implicating the (subjectively) darker sides of humanity. These exhibitions dare to be a curious kind of humanist in not exactly fighting for as much as offering the outlook that regardless of their actions, these people all have the same degree of worth as they struggle to realise their moral and spiritual plains, caught up in the abstract as they navigate earthly obstacles and reinforcements, opportunities for self-knowledge and growth. The direction of such growth is determined by the viewer not the filmmaker, and this unbiased objectivity allows the films to hold unique power.

There is strong focus on dualities, at times coming from the subjects in verbal disputes (frequently regarding spiritual certitude, though more idiosyncratic conversations - such as the agriculture vs. sexual reproduction/eroticism in Mandala - hit wild existential strides, the ones in that film somewhat resembling the analyses of a Godardian essay film), but most often presented as a formal directorial choice by initiating juxtapositions between the created and the natural. The ‘created’ is documented by the physical with photography capturing man-made structures as well as the unnatural technique of the camera dismounting audience alignment with subjective perspective, but also with the abstract cultural traditions and ideologies that can emanate as family roles, honor, morality, appropriateness of sexual dynamics, and concrete traditions like marriage. The ‘natural,’ on the other hand, is exposition on human nature, at times drawn as animalistic but consistently embodied as very emotional, sexual, and reactive beings pining for cognitive and spiritual fulfillment. Still, there is a brutality present not indicative of moral judgment from the filmmakers but in the state of 'being' these people must endure as they remain lost and wanting, needing creatures, constantly at odds with the created and thus with themselves (a modernist take on Dukkha, the first noble truth of suffering, an acceptance of which permits the gratitude necessary for spiritual growth). As these forces extend to ideologies and influence the conditioned values of the self, people try to make sense out of the senseless given the limited tools of comprehension at their disposal to accept that situations and actions simply ‘are’ and have no god-given moral signifier to their roots, or reject this idea and venture into their own self-fulfilling narrative loop in an attempt to achieve spiritual satisfaction from scattered subjective truths emitted from the will in rebellion.

The films seem to suggest that true authentic spirituality is divorced from the known, and can only exist in the space between acceptance and gratitude, a fleeting moment of impermanence that few people seem to grasp but is seen countless times here in the blink of an eye, whether with two characters sitting on a bench watching a river or in the serenity twinkling in the eye of a woman between shots of her face scrunched up by embarrassment and desire. Even in the (consensual) sexual acts that populate much of these films, one can see spirituality, though often what precedes and follows such acts are behaviors and reactions driven by fear or selfishness, characters making or dismissing ‘meaning’ out of the ever-present conditioned drive to do so (most obviously at the beginning of Mandala, with interplay almost cheekily obvious in exploiting these thematic beats initiated by the first film; though that film’s subsequent mission to rebel against Time to achieve harmony is more genuinely conceived, and fascinating in its own right). However, it’s not insignificant that characters are engaging in the act of ‘creating’ throughout these films, the natural and the unnatural bound by the process and practice of said process, the unstatic foundation of Buddhism, that recognizes all these moments as of equal importance, and refuses to assign objective value to subjective experience.

There is a scene early on in This Transient Life where the brother and sister find masks they played with as kids and proceed to re-engage in those childlike games. In this drawn out interaction, the two traverse the spectrum from the imagined displacement to the sober real, and experience joy, pleasure, connection, disconnect, confusion, shame, fear, desire, and all the in-betweens. The masks are on but we can still feel their emotions process. This is the magic of the movies at work beyond the scope of what can be seen with the naked eye of photography alone, and sets the stage for Jissôji’s schematic visions to follow; a presentation of life’s mysteries as impossible existential puzzles, their existence mistakenly interpreted as those which must be solved. What Jissôji is interested in is providing unconditional validation for all actions, from reverting toward mystic and human connection, to the tangible, often sexual experiences of the flesh, or forfeiting these earthly pleasures for catharsis through philosophical pondering. Is this all escapist, and even if so, is it still authentic? The films are interested in posing questions and not simplifying the questions into answers or even language as we know it, but they take the opportunities of the medium’s language to thoroughly examine this territory and leave the viewer with a package of discomfort and serenity, as all spiritual processes do.

In the final film of the trilogy, Poem, the density of chaos and disturbing experimentation in the previous entries is mostly absent, and yet the initially contemplative and calming mood is complicated by the barren spiritual orientation felt between person and nature, and subsequently extending to the peers in his social environment, leading to a different vibe of existential turmoil. It’s beautiful but not blissful because we can sense the clouds of ennui barring our protagonist from transient instances of spiritual enlightenment. The collection of films appear to revolt against traditional Buddhist views, but they really leave a more comprehensive dissection than we would get from a safer, and clearer, presentation. The final, fourth film is a kind of secret key to unlocking the message behind the collective, not only thematically but in terms of a sensation of mindfulness that allows for a somewhat optimistic finish to a string of difficult and intense viewing experiences. After all four, I was left with a complex collage of my own psychospiritual experiences: validation for how hard life can seem, hope for momentarily transcending these existential barriers to perceive how full life is, wisdom in the acceptance that we will not stop ‘chasing’ and that fighting this natural urge is futile, and finally comfort in knowing that we have and will experience moments of impermanence, and just ‘be,’ whether we recognize them or not, and that regardless of that awareness, we shall find and lose this peace indefinitely.

The restoration work is impressive and I’m glad Arrow took as long as they did to deliver such a fine product. I’ll admit I was skeptical picking up this set, having had mixed experiences risking blind-buys into Arrow’s more esoteric foreign market, but this is pure groundbreaking cinema. Mileage will vary on how each film will affect you, and I'll admit that I liked each to varying degrees (probably finding each film worse than the one before), though all of them serve as necessary pieces of the collective puzzle and have considerable value that I look forward to unpacking and exploring more over time.

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