Thursday, October 20, 2011

"A tendency to overpack"

From Kerry Weber's articlein America Magazine, "The Father's Way" about the new film by Emilio Estevez, starring his father, Martin Sheen. The film tells the storry of a man who loses his son and decides to walk the several-hundred-kilometre El Camino de Santiago between France and Spain.

Along the camino, the refugios, or hostels, often contain shelves of books in many languages, which people have left behind in order to lighten their packs on the road. Everyone has a tendency to overpack, Sheen said, but this unpacking can be not only a physical comfort but a spiritual one, as well.

“As you begin to let go of the material baggage then you begin to reflect on the interior baggage, and you begin the transcendence, the descent into yourself,” Sheen said. “As St. Teresa of Ávila tells us, in order to become free and to become ourselves we have to open the dungeons of our hearts and let go of all those people and those things that we’ve been hanging on to…. We’re hanging on to resentment, judgment, anger, jealously…. As we begin to descend in there and have an honest look at the baggage we’ve accumulated, we begin to let it all go and we become ourselves.”

In the end, Sheen said, it is important to remember that we are all on the same journey. “You can’t have anyone walk this walk for you,” he said. “But you don’t have to walk it alone.”

Creative Commons: Some rights reserved

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie Review Series at Life as a Human

I have recently begun writing a regular series of film reviews for the online magazine Life as a Human. The films I review are for the most part not current but are favorites of mine that readers/movie lovers may not have seen or may have forgotten about.

There is a brief introduction to the series here.

So far I have reviewed Another Year, Tender Mercies, and Pelle the Conqueror. In the coming weeks reviews of Shall We Dance? (Japanese and American versions) and Cabaret will be posted.


Creative Commons: Some rights reserved

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Marilynne Robinson, Matthew 25, and the Neo-Fundamentalists

Since these folk [neo-fundamentalists] claim to be defenders of embattled Christianity (under siege by liberalism, as they woould have it), they might be struck by the passage in Matthew 25 in which Jesus says, identifying himself with the poorest, "I was hungry and ye fed me not." This is the parable in which Jesus portrays himself as eschatological judge and in which he separates "the nations." It should surely be noted that he does not apply any standard of creed, of purity, or of orthodoxy in deciding whom to save and whom to damn. This seems to me a valuable insight into what Jesus himself might consider fundamental. To those who have not recognized him in the hungry and the naked, he says, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels." Neo-fundamentalists seem to crave this sort of language - more than they might if they were to consider its context here. It is the teaching of the Bible passim that God has confided us very largely to one another's care, but that in doing so he has in no degree detached himself from us. Indeed, in this parable Jesus would seem to push beyond the image of God as final judge, to describe an immanence of God in humankind that makes judgment present and continuous and, in effect, makes our victim our judge. Neither here nor anywhere else in the Bible is there the slightest suggestion that our judge/victim would find a plea of economic rationalism extenuating.
Marilynne Robinson, "Onward, Christian Liberals" in The Best American Essays 2007

(I love Marilynne)


Creative Commons: Some rights reserved

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"How sweet it is to forget all that stuff..."

Noli vinci a malo sed vince in bono malum. [Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good (Romans 12:21).] The faults, imperfections, and weaknesses of people who are supposed to be holy! I have not been allowed to retain much of an illusion about the universal perfection of the house where I am going to make vows! But it is ceasing to disturb me. How sweet it is to forget all that stuff and to realize that it is none of my business to worry about the apparent faults of others outside of the simple means prescribed by the Usages. How many burdens there are that you don't really have to carry! In fact you sin by carrying them, and you give God much glory by dropping them! And so there is no need to make any decision about so many seeming imperfections in a community.
 From Entering the Silence: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Two 1941-1952

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vancouver International Film Festival: Quickie Reviews (I)

I have seen six films at the festival so far and have enjoyed all of them. Here are some mini-reviews:

This is a documentary about the well-known Spanish flamenco singer Enrique Morente. I most particularly enjoyed the music in this film (for some reason, I slept through a good part of the biographical scenes); Morente’s brand of flamenco is moving and hypnotic.

The Front Line
This is a Korean film about a group of soldiers who spend most of the Korean War taking and retaking a single hill from the enemy. The film’s anti-war message is not very subtle and the life of the ordinary soldier is in some ways over-romanticized, so in spite of some excellent battle scenes, this was the least satisfying movie so far.

The Mill and the Cross
An imaginative and moving dramatization of the 1564 painting The Way of the Cross by Pieter Bruegel, this film is a gem. The cinematography is gorgeous and the story, like the painting, is fascinating and thought-provoking. If this film, which features Rutger Hauer, Michael York, and Charlotte Rampling, comes in to general release I recommend that you see it.

I found this film interesting because it gave me an insight into a side of Iranian culture that I did not know existed. The story involves two young women from well-to-do families who are brought up in a world that seems to have escaped the severe restrictions and punishments of Islamic law; the young women are in love with each other. Their cozy world begins to collapse, however, when the brother of one of the women returns to the family after undergoing drug rehab, which has clearly included some Islamic indoctrination. Thanks to the brother’s growing fundamentalism and his pathological need for control, the freedoms enjoyed by the family are going to be curtailed by a creeping and insidious orthodoxy. The only flaw I found here was what I consider to be the miscasting of the two young women.

Corpo Celeste
In Corpo Celeste a quirky and independent-minded 13-year-old girl has emigrated to Italy from Switzerland and is immediately thrust into the conservative, and clearly corrupt, Catholic world of her new home. In the process of taking preparatory classes for her confirmation, she discovers the nature of the Church, the confusing and disappointing world of adults, and most of all, herself. At the same time, her determination to see and express truth provide some lessons to those around her. Excellent film and wonderful acting from the girl, who is in practically every scene of the movie.

A Simple Life
This Ann Hui masterpiece is by far my favourite of the films I have seen. It is the story of Ah Tao, a maid who has served a Hong Kong family for sixty years. Most of the family has emigrated to the U.S. but as the film opens she is still looking after one of the grandsons, Roger, a movie producer. When she suffers a stroke she decides it is time to retire and to move into a long-term care facility. The rest of the film is a character study of this remarkable woman and of the love she has given to the family which is now returned by Roger. As her health gradually deteriorates, the movie reveals, through little incidents, more facets of her character—selflessness, independence, wisdom, dignity, humour.

I love this kind of film, where nothing really happens, where there is no major conflict, and no great revelation or surprise at the end, but in which so much is revealed. I am certain that a film like A Simple Life is far more difficult to make than big, expensive blockbusters like Titanic and Avatar, and Transformers. I am also sure that the making of A Simple Life is an act of love by an artist of great depth and exquisite taste.