Monday, June 22, 2009

review: the sacred art of tibet

I got this as part of the four dvd collection The Lawrence Jordan Album, which is beautiful and worth sinking into for long stretches but waaaaaaaaay more than most people would ever need. Jordan was one of Joseph Cornell's filmmakers (alongside Stan Brakhage), and Jordan's films really show the Cornell influence, many of them looking literally like animated versions of his boxes. If Brakhage is more interested in a "pure cinema" of direct-to-film collage, Jordan is his more culturally engaged counterpart, combining pre-existing visual material and his own footage in a similar way to Max Ernst's collage books -- the middle ground between these two approaches would be the films of Harry Smith. In 1970 he got a Guggenheim grant to make The Sacred Art of Tibet, a half-hour documentary which basically consists of a narrated overview of the basics of Tibetan Buddhist practice and its primary deities. Jordan adds to this a constantly shifting audio backdrop of chanting and ritual music while blending a vast collection of Tibetan art, his own animations and beautiful lighting effects into a hypnagogic blur. Deeply respectful but not reverent (which I guess is my way of saying "trippy, but not *just* trippy" -- apart from all the eye candy it really is a good introduction, and explains the differences between Buddhist and Christian notions of divinity and prayer in very instructional ways), it's probably the Jordan piece I'd suggest people see if they're only going to see one.

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