Profile for TravellerThruKalpas > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by TravellerThruK...
Top Reviewer Ranking: 302,724
Helpful Votes: 18

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by

Page: 1
Three Days (1991) ( Tri dnya )  ( Trys dienos ) [ English subtitles ] [DVD]
Three Days (1991) ( Tri dnya ) ( Trys dienos ) [ English subtitles ] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Yekaterina Golubeva
Offered by DaaVeeDee-uk
Price: 26.68

5.0 out of 5 stars A Profound Cinema of Transience, 31 Dec 2013
Could this be one of the most beautiful films ever made? Although it is not perhaps the kind of beauty that most people would want to see, nor even expect could possibly exist, as it usually escapes our attention. What happens here is stolen from the life of what passes us by. There are human figures in a landscape, cryptic and alienated, but also a supreme sense of presence: a physical realm which transcends the mere possibility of metaphorically registering the human condition. This is a revelation of the beauty of the world, the universe actually, just as it happens, as it appears.

In this realm of experience Sharunas Bartas renders in Three Days, there is a beauty of surfaces and distances, an endless sense of moment, the space characters occupy before moving on, the way light immerses everything in its shifting and waning powers, manifesting a landscape apparently out of nothingness, a nothingness which seems to persist when place and beings are subsumed into the atmospheric field, endlessly holding our gaze. A deepening dimension of silence reveals a startling lucidity of forms and sounds, especially effective as seen and heard through distance. All of which tentatively define time as it arises, and a place which keeps taking place. Although our gaze continually moves between figure and background, our attention is occasionally suspended in moments of emotive mystery: Why is she suddenly laughing? Or crying? Thus Katerina Golubeva haunts us as well.

The conventional modes of narrative, dialogue and exposition used by popular forms of cinema have created a systemic refuge of meaning for us, heavily conditioning our belief that what passes as storytelling is actually a direct way into knowing who we are, rather than a continued shared desire to conform our behaviors predictably into acceptable cultures. Thus storytelling has become a highly cultivated way of transmitting un-truths. Bartas radically exposes this mythology of culture in creating his profoundly mysterious cinema, not because he withholds information from us, but simply because he suggests an impossibility of truly knowing others on deeper levels (an insight also registered in some films by Claire Denis and Chantal Akerman). Apparently unavailable are these private lives before us, their pain barely surfacing to negotiate an entropic numbness.

However, an ability (in fact the very invitation to the viewer) to bear witness, is quite important here. In the feeling of being present there, in a room with the woman and man, there is no sense of voyeurism merely because we are given access to their private moments: as they lay on the bed, fully clothed, without speaking, she holding him against herself, gently stroking his hair, his face hidden in her coat, the dance-hall music from across the way distant but audible, her tears visible as she begins to cry silently. What registers is highly unusual: instead of empathy because you might understand why she's crying (you actually might not), the moment involves being present to witness her distress, without even knowing why, and only because you have been given special permission to do so, which has become clear. Through this act of grace, Bartas allows us to bear witness to these lives without the need to "own" the experience through having one's subjectivity excercised, which enables a witnessing so eminently humanizing. In fact, it seems an ethical subversion of the usual effects of emotional pornography characteristic of so much common cinematic manipulation, wherein a typical excess of information "gets us going."

There are moments when these human figures we encounter almost emerge as full-fledged subjects, before disappearing again into their maintained silence. Mostly speechless, they drift along or meet up, amble together for a while, through rooms, into encounters without welcome or conclusion. The drifting itself evokes a wayward miasma: there seems to be nothing to do but gradually move, entering buildings through windows, turning around when gates are closed, living outside possibilities of comfort, standing here and there, standing some more before moving on again.

Yet the realm they inhabit and pass through - this supreme transience of presence, seemingly containing everything, full of subtle contingencies - becomes an aesthetic one unsurpassed by alienation, and one which has steadily encompassed our feeling, not just our witness. And so what is made available finally, one of the film's true gifts, is a newly possible vision: Is this after all nothing less than the life - of the whole world - which we are witnessing?

The New World [DVD]
The New World [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Price: 3.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Some thoughts on Malick's "Indian Princess", 31 Dec 2013
This review is from: The New World [DVD] (DVD)
Some may find irony in Terrence Malick's films, but never cynicism. In The New World he hasn't fashioned his version of the events in Virginia 1607 to comply with any prescriptions derived from our zeitgeist for how such historically and ethnically sensitive material should be treated by a non-"Indian" (the term of self-reference by tribal people, according to Scott Momaday). And, is that even possible? In practice history can never be recovered, "correctly" or otherwise, only remade afresh each time for present intent, by which every genuine artist indeed answers a different muse, outside consensus.

The New World's storyline is so well-covered by others, that I ask the kind indulgence of readers to allow me a few points of discussion, and mostly notes at that. (Also, there may be SPOILERS.)

[ Innocence ] The Indian maiden (her name unspoken) pleads for Captain Smith's life after he's captured and presented by her tribe to her father. He is freed, and despite her father's warning counsel, she is drawn into an arising bond of deep love with Smith through some causal transformation, which has occurred in him as well. They become as two children: there is smiling delight, innocent oblivion, courtesy and respect, silence. There is physical touch, yet no sexual overtones, just tenderness and a becoming shyness, as in a true(r) courtship. She is very young after all. Of this propriety Malick leaves no room for doubt.

[ The Other: Singular ] Also evident and striking about their encounter is that its inherent purity is quite something which one would expect to find in such a meeting with the "Other" (with what is usually perceived to be completely unlike, foreign, often unwelcome or threatening); that is, when the transforming ability of that encounter is indeed enabled by openness, willingness to accept, and by inborn natural curiosity (when not typically repressed), allowing one to move forward towards that Other. In our world, "Other" represents difficult challenges psychologically and emotionally for many people, in coming to terms with accepting much which is foreign, culturally or otherwise. The radical liberation of this central meeting in the film might well shift perspectives for many, at the very least subconsciously.

[ The Other: Plural ] Much has been made of the "betrayal" by Pocahontas of her people (historically), and being cast out by her father. While that occurs here, Malick's insistence on honoring the importance of individual over collective experience allows him to provide insight: not only are the Indian "princess" and Captain Smith able to effect their love for the Other in the singular; it will allow them to further embrace the Other in the plural, as when he intimately bonds with her kin, and when she later enlists those very kinsfolk to bring food and provisions to the English settlers, starving in midwinter. If the underlying dynamic of embracing the Other is clear, it becomes difficult to establish a convincing claim for a pure betrayal on her part. Indeed, she is shown in her continual loyalty as she returns to her father every time she has stepped out of favor while following the inner urgings of her heart, until he sends her away. Could she really choose between her community and Smith? His judgment reestablishes her humility, but it's also importantly on view when she supplicates the spirit of her dead mother who, as becomes apparent, is her true life guide, the only one we see her turning to, before and after this abandonment.

[ The Individual ] For Malick there is again an opportunity to show clearly, within the individual/collective context, what is important about the maiden's position. The love for one's parents and community must be deep, yet it comes naturally, without question. However, when love for the Other arises, who can say it may not prove to be the greater, more powerful one? The one that opens, transforms, removes limitations, and matures someone ineffably, and is greater than those involved. Tragically, an opportunity for even a minimal encounter with the Other, between natives and settlers, would be impossible for a long time. However, Malick preempts any manipulation to make us register either "poor unfortunate naturals" or "disgusting new colonials." Instead he encourages empathy: to see both sides with compassion, to honor every person's suffering. The film appears primarily the story of one individual, the Indian maiden, yet while upholding the singular importance of her experience, Malick enables a deeper insight: that nations, tribes, races, people do not suffer. Only individuals suffer. "The People," -- that blind ideological production -- never existed, only individuals exist, which is sometimes unbearable to see because it is precisely at the level of the individual that one most uncompromisingly confronts the Other.

[ Transcendence ] The New World is a transcendent experience, not because of its soul-glimpses (in voice-overs) or nature's endless majesty on view (although its scope, colors and sounds do manifest a different overwhelming sense of Otherness). The movement forward of Rebecca (newly named) through further abandonment by Smith, further surrender as captive Other, further encounter, courtship and marriage to Rolfe, into the blossoming of motherhood: all allow her to know new life at every stage, including her own suffering, from innocent purity and deepening spiritual reliance to the maturity of clear discernment. A last meeting with Smith, a farewell, her final certain embrace of Rolfe... what more is there to know?

The new world for Smith was not Virginia, nor England for her. It is never the outer, external one. Malick offers this knowledge most intimately, his very invitation to transcendence, and his art is genuine in this knowing.

Out 1 - Noli me tangere / Spectre (DVD)
Out 1 - Noli me tangere / Spectre (DVD)
Dvd ~ Jacques Rivette
Offered by giag-uk
Price: 52.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery of Creation, 26 Dec 2013
This four-hour journey begins with a strong sense of place, in the heady Paris of the 70s. Two theatrical groups are rehearsing classical plays by Aeschylus, turning them inside out, exploring how bodies can accommodate text to manifest new forms, sounds, synthesis (as in Grotowski, Brook, Living Theater).

Add two outsiders: a young man (Jean-Pierre Leaud) canvassing sidewalk cafés with his harmonica, playing a deaf-mute role to increase sympathetic handouts; a young woman duping foolish men out of cash (Juliet Berto, her hilarious, endlessly mugging face, captured for all time yet again). He gets mysterious notes with texts (excerpts from Balzac and Lewis Carroll) that apparently allude to a gang of "Thirteen" operating secretly in Paris, or: perhaps not... She rips off a cache of letters on the sly and reading them at home discovers -- conspiratorial activity? The two theatre groups each have a director and five actors: six plus six equals twelve. Is modest Pauline (Bulle Ogier), who runs a boutique which is an intersection for clandestine encounters, a possible "thirteen"?

A great magician, Jacques Rivette has created a masterwork (just before Celine and Julie Go Boating). His protocol here: the performers were given the basics of each scene, then had to improvise their way through. The resulting film is a dazzling process-oriented experience: a sheer delight as one becomes more intrigued, not only with what is created by the performers, but in the way it arises: one moment all surface, then shadows of meaning, or glimpses of motivation, then recurring withdrawals into the safety of silence. There appears the mere intention of conspiracy just in the mode of interactions alone, yet which are all beautifully and deliberately underplayed, enough to keep us off-balance. Secrets, conspiracy, paranoia, messages in code, missing (unseen) characters, the "Thirteen" -- just how much is true?

Exploring this process of spontaneous creation, especially in the interaction of so many individuals, creates cross-currents which flow through and envelop the viewer, irresistible and challenging. Even in different combinations -- of two, three or more characters at once -- there are charges sent through the scenes, which take their course and dissipate, sometimes leaving us feeling nearer to some degree of truth, at least momentarily. These depths of improvisation evoke a tenet found in shamanistic practice: that effectiveness is the measure of truth. But if so, then whom do we trust? Any of these characters? Some? Surely not Rivette, a conjurer of illusions?

Eventually in the second half, the m.o. of Rivette and Co. gradually becomes luminous. For example, in a scene near the Seine: as the wonderful Michel Lonsdale speaks with a possible conspirator, his discourse of artifice and invention almost clouds with evasion, is almost a coded language. He gradually (perhaps even unwittingly) reveals in his speech, a searching creative finesse, stretching the imagination and attention through pause... after pause... until even one sentence is finally accomplished. A profound insight arises: when using words, even with utmost caution and selectivity, we may find out what is in our control but, more strikingly, also what is beyond it... While we still don't know how far we can trust him, the calibre of this high wire act, which everyone has to manage throughout, reveals a brilliant transparency at work, which is le grand manouevre of Out One: Spectre in general.

These dangerous games of hide-and-seek truly take a game cast, and it's here in spades: Leaud, Ogier, Berto, Lonsdale, along with Bernadette Lafont, Francoise Fabian, Michele Moretti, Jean-Francois Stevenin and the rest are all up to their necks, some even over their heads... Who else but Rivette can display this mystery of creation unfolding, maintain its delicate balances for four enthralling hours, then return us to a sense of place which is completely emptied of everything -- so that we can go home, released and refreshed... even while the enigma remains intact.

Silent Light [DVD] [2007]
Silent Light [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Cornelio Wall
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Silent Light vs Ordet's Light, 26 Dec 2013
This review is from: Silent Light [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Michael Ondaatje once said that there is a limit to what films can do in getting below the surface of things. This might well be said of Silent Light. On first reflection it seems a mystery how this film, the third by Carlos Reygadas, actually manages to work some magic on the viewer without recourse to establishing conventional feelings for its characters. There is no script here which allows a way of rendering people in any depth whatsoever; dialogue is spare, relaying information in brief clusters of signifying words. "This is the last time... Peace -- is stronger than love... Poor Esther," a character says after lovemaking. The very fact that dialogue relays information stiltedly, instead of communicating in a more natural way, is a stylistic attenuation which doesn't build a convincing case for itself in the course of the film, though eventually a bare minimum of dialogue does enable us to discern the basic dilemma here: the issues a married man faces in keeping a mistress (or not) in a specific sectarian community.

On the other hand, within this sense of economy there is a vital sense of how light affects appearances -- all the varying qualities of light as that which in themselves might generate emotion. But that this happens to the extent which is fulfilling as an experience, as many critics seem to think, is questionable. Here, characters function as IMAGES of people -- rather than AS fully-dimensional people -- just as trees and landscapes function in most films as images of trees and landscapes, that is, without further requirements. There is a kind of purity resulting in all of this, and it's as if a mystery of the generic (not archetype) is revealed: as if each image appears as a pure template -- of itself: this IS the image of trees in a field at dusk, this IS the image of a woman sitting across from a man in a passenger seat of a car, this IS the image of a man alone at a table crying... There is a self-consciousness at play in the sensitivity of the cinematographic light, and thus a heightened sense of physical presence. And the performances by non-professionals are rendered in a way which recalls Bresson, but with a more pronounced distancing. Yet at the same time, and unlike Bresson, the characters just don't register as fully inhabiting a world.

Having said all that, I wonder what connection Mr. Reygadas estimated for his project with respect to Carl Theodor Dreyer's film Ordet, which appears the intentional factor in making his own, largely according to the conjunction of the same main event (a miracle) in both films. Silent Light is actually only a very slight homage to Ordet (shared miracle notwithstanding) for all the supposed similarities many critics have wished to concoct between the films. It seems hard to reasonably qualify Reygadas's re-approach to this "miracle of faith" (not to reveal it here), which one had no trouble accepting from Dreyer, who was a man of deeply religious sensibility -- a sensibility generally and notably absent in Reygadas, a crucial point which leaves the comparison of both men itself wanting.

A rather important omission in general from the critical assessments of the film, is the remembrance that in making Ordet, Dreyer did adapt a play -- through which the matter of revealing the inner states and spiritual conditions of the characters depend on words and the nuances of meaning in language; we are communicative, expressive beings (urban or rural), after all. One of Dreyer's supreme gifts was to compliment the emotional weave of the ongoing verbal exchange between characters with visual compositions and lighting, illuminating what was outside of the spoken. This perfectly complimentary method (one even more refined in his last film, Gertrud, also based on a play) -- between word and image -- exemplifies the interdependence out of which the meaning of his work arises.

In contrast, Reygadas favors the laconic approach of images over words, and has difficulty producing the same depth of total response from the viewer. If he did indeed intend to seek out the inner lives of his characters, albeit in a way apart from language, he hasn't achieved much more than a surface of imagistic mystique, wherein things tend to signify only themselves (as "templates") without deeper resonance. On balance, however, it is notable that there is a distancing due to the subtle stylistic effects one can feel even when watching Dreyer's film; a feeling of being at a remove from the events unfolding, even while one senses being suspended in a spiritual dimension, yet in the end, one which still somehow feels like *real* everyday life. This unusual effect also seems to be present in Silent Light.

Interestingly, when the miracle of the former film appears here, it is not a moving event in and of itself; and yet paradoxically, it effectively becomes such -- due to the exquisitely clear, lucid visual presentation: the transference, of the technical qualities of modulated light, upon subjects, into a "miraculous appearance," is total. The face of the smiling or crying one is the the face illuminated and transfigured by this light -- the entire process of which is ostensibly the real subject of Reygadas's film.

But in Dreyer's cinema, the mutually dependent transference of meaning between words and images makes for a more deeply satisfying experience, far beyond mere technical control of the medium. Next to Ordet, Silent Light will seem ever more slight the more critics try to inflate tenuous connections between the two. One is even tempted to apply Mahler's dictum that "interesting is easy, beautiful is difficult." Apropos of the ravishing images Reygadas conjures, however, one might go further here and say that the beautiful truly appears easy, but nonetheless a deeper, more rewarding interest lies elsewhere.

Dossier K
Dossier K
by Imre Kertesz
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Final Masterpiece, 26 Dec 2013
This review is from: Dossier K (Paperback)
This "dossier" was a completely brilliant autobiographical gambit by Kertesz, positing the interview format for not merely relaying the story of his life and circumstances, but in order to encompass a discussion of difficult things which any number of interviewers might not be able to comfortably negotiate with someone of this magnitude of sentience and experience. As well as questions many may not have the courage or the ethical wherewithal to project (such as inviting an answer to Adorno's statement that to write and essentially create art "after Auschwitz is barbaric"), there would also be those which might simply never arise, largely circumstantial to his personal life and realizations. Kertesz can engage all this material as he chooses and in whatever order, moving chronologically or circuitously, while orchestrating counterpoints of meaning and often producing deeply emotional effects.

Without a doubt, Dossier K. is the only real "interview" that we are likely to need, especially now that his interview in the current Paris Review is officially his last given one, in light of his Parkinson's condition. It seems it will be his final masterpiece. His spirit and fierce intelligence will be missed.

My Reincarnation [DVD] [2010] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
My Reincarnation [DVD] [2010] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Jennifer Fox
Price: 13.91

5.0 out of 5 stars A Meaningful Return, 26 Dec 2013
This film is a warm and compassionate exploration of the many facets of life for the renowned Tibetan Dzogchen teacher Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, as well as Yeshi, who not only has the burden of being the son of such a world-famous master, but the additional one of his own reincarnated legacy to navigate and embrace.

Most gratifying and quietly amazing is the graciousness of both father and son for allowing such close cinematic observation for so long. Twenty years of access to this family also allows for a view of impermanence, which subtly colors the events in the lives and attitudes of the principals. What a privilege, for filmmaker Jennifer Fox and for us, to be allowed to spend such a generous amount of time with them, and to get a sense of the fresh challenges which are imposed upon life when it is radically encompassed by Tibetan Buddhist worldviews. For an average person, encountering the possibility that your uncle has been reborn as your son, may well transform your conventional ideas about the meaning of family life into something new and unfamiliar... perhaps even liberating.

Some opportunities for glimpses into the nature of Tibetan Dzogchen could have served as a nice taste for cultivating an interest among some potential practitioners, but there is rather very little of it here to give a deep sense of what distinguishes its atiyoga qualities from, for example, Zen or even other aspects of Tibetan Buddhist practices. Indeed, it doesn't actually qualify (as Norbu himself has repeatedly said) as really being in itself a tradition per se, although the body of its instructional and inspirational texts do usually find a major repository within the Nyingma school. But that said, this is essentially a family drama first, with some dharma teachings appearing to provide commentary.

I found it interesting that, while Fox puts Yeshi up front as the more immediately sympathetic protagonist in the pair, the father has an outsized presence that necessarily requires some distancing, which results in a more ambiguous view of his character yet one which effectively helps preempt a superficial judgment of him on our part. In other words, our sympathies do not favor the son at the expense of the father, who is really a warm teacher with a great ability to transmit profound things. Also interestingly, the film's presentation doesn't seem to have prevented some confusion among Buddhist practitioners of other traditions who have seen it, and who have not found their own Buddhist practice, beliefs or general demeanor reflected in it.

In any case, for anyone interested in acquainting themselves with Dzogchen as taught by Norbu (and he quite a wonderful teacher), I would recommend starting with Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State, which is not too advanced and gives a short helpful overview, with many clear points about the practice and its distinctions.

Free Fall [DVD]
Free Fall [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hanno Koffler
Offered by fat_buddha
Price: 9.99

16 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Negotiating One's Freedom, 26 Dec 2013
This review is from: Free Fall [DVD] (DVD)
Although one is initially alerted to the possible use of the police academy setting to metaphorically delineate some of the dynamics present in a society's norms as part of its imposed conditioning (the training academy especially implying a sense of regimentation), this very well-made film actually registers most of its concerns in a low-key manner, allowing some indirection to come through the proceedings by giving enough space for subtler impressions and meaning.

Apparently, many viewers want to characterize the film's subject in terms of a conflicted choice between heterosexuality and homosexuality, which makes about as much sense as merely portraying its content as the treatment of a love triangle; it reveals a rather limited level of engagement and even suggests that such issues are far from politically resolved in their minds. But while the storyline could be read on the surface for perplexing issues around self-identity, sexual or otherwise, it is ultimately about someone who gradually allows himself the freedom to experience not only different ways of loving others, but also the vital ways in which life actually unfolds in a broader sense, beyond the difficulties of imposed human limitations.

The courage of Lacant's film lies in its delineation of what life is like when one truly begins to negotiate one's freedom by opening up fully to the presence of ambiguity and not knowing - entering into the "free fall" of the title - and going beyond limited distinctions, to find and live out what is actually true from moment to moment. A Taoist expression comes to mind as one follows Marc's trajectory into his own realm of truth: the more free you are, the more unpredictable you become.

Which asks us all: can you live out your truth in this most uncompromising way? Or, can you live with someone who is? What does freedom look like in a world full of all the shoulds and musts which we and others continually wish to impose upon ourselves? Marc begins to show us as he learns to submit to his own free-fall - which is no less than remaining open and vulnerable to whatever is transpiring.

The performances are excellent throughout, although working from a carefully written script which tends to deliberately tailor the depth of all the other characters beside Marc. Thus, while in the end Kai shows up as little more than a catalyst for Marc's awakening and perhaps generating our wish for a bit more character development, it is really Marc's story after all, and we are meant to inhabit the film's shades of meaning by traveling through his experiences from his vantage point.

It could be said that in a society no longer concerned with an immature sense of morality or inadequate ethics, Marc would both be able to bear a child with a woman as well as express the love he might feel for another man, if he is so inclined. But Marc, like the rest of us, is born in time, and therefore occupies a certain karmic status, posited by the complexity of circumstances... and the way to the truth is largely through one's karma.

Although we humans are still somewhat tribal and limited beings, whose sense of freedom is defined and grounded in our very limitations, the film nonetheless demonstrates in its closing statement that we can only live meaningfully by choosing from our own freedom - and thus encountering the possibility of a real and lived life, beyond all expectations - if we assume the courage to do so... a courage exemplified by director Lacant in this direct and honest film.

Page: 1