Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This week I saw Samsara, cinematographer Ron Fricke's wordless film essay containing spectacular documentary footage shot all over the world. The imagery is wide-ranging. The film might jump from Balinese dancers to Hawaiian volcanoes to prison inmates to sand dunes. The organizing principle was not obvious to me, so I experienced the film simply as a compilation of arresting visuals. Aerial shots of temples sprouting from the landscape of Myanmar are breathtaking. Stunning footage of pilgrims circling the Kaaba made me dizzy. I gasped at the wushu demonstration by a seemingly infinite number of red-jacketed practitioners.

A segment about over-consumption, using cliched time-lapse photography of traffic & assembly line workers, is blunt. The soundtrack of synthesized, New Age music is frankly awful. Sometimes I did not get exactly what was going on. I had no idea what to make of the massive cow carousel in what must be a dairy or slaughterhouse. I recognized the interior of Teatro alla Scala, but it wasn't until the closing credits that I realized I should have been suspicious of the nubile Thai go-go dancers.

§ Samsara (2011)
Ron Fricke, director; US
A; 102 min.

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