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Lions Roar : September 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2006 93 Movies are entertainment, yes, but they go much further, in- viting us to explore other cultures and ideas. Done well, they provide a window for getting to know our world and ourselves better. At their best, they can deepen our experience of the state of being human. And to do this, they don’t always have to be heavy and serious. Sometimes they can simply be an invitation to relax and have fun. So, settle back and enjoy the movie! THE OVERTURE, 2004, Thailand 104 min., subtitles; director: Ittisoontorn Vichailak What It’s About: In Thailand at the end of the nineteenth century, the most important competitions are not held for Olympic sports but for the playing of the ranard-ek. It takes extraordinary precision and talent to coax intricate melodies out of this seemingly simple bamboo xylophone. Sorn, a mu- sically gifted young man, develops a unique style of playing based in the sounds he hears in nature. He goes on to become the nation’s champion and a valued member of the king’s orchestra. But, things are changing in Thailand: the govern- ment wants to modernize, and the playing of the ranard-ek becomes passé and, eventually, banned. What to Look For: The director deftly braids the two parallel narratives of Sorn’s development as a musician and his struggles against his country’s ban on the traditional arts, to show that the cultural experience is an integral part of being human. Why It Matters: A poignant look at the development of a natural talent into mastery and the ethics of lineage and tra- dition that accompany it. Later, as an old man during World War II, Sorn is called on to defend the traditions and loyalties he promised to uphold as a youth against the “barbarians,” the Japanese soldiers. They invade his country, his house, and finally, his music, killing in an hour what took centuries to develop. PRINCESS RACCOON, 2005, Japan 111 min., subtitles; director: Suzuki Seijun What It’s About: It’s the tale of Prince Amechiyo (Japanese heartthrob Odagiri Joe), whose father has abandoned him on a sacred mountain after a prophecy foretelling that the son will be more beautiful than the father. He is rescued by a Mandarin-speaking beauty (Chinese diva Zhang Ziyi, also seen in Hero and Memoirs of a Geisha), who turns out to be a tanuki, a raccoon-like creature known for its shape-shifting powers. She takes him home to Tanuki Palace where they fall in love, only to face one obstacle after another. What to Look For: A delightfully idiosyncratic Japanese musi- cal in which spectacular visuals are accompanied by pop mu- sic ranging from hip-hop to torch songs in a magical dream of pure spectacle. Why It Matters: Basically it’s just over-the-top fun, but if you’ve ever wondered what might happen if the Buddha in- troduced kabuki to Gilbert and Sullivan, this is your oppor- tunity to suspend your belief in logical, orderly plots and let the result unspool in the hands of a master storyteller and filmmaker. (DVD from www.yesasia.com) AS LIFE GOES BY, 2003, France 94 min., subtitles, documentary; director: Jean-Henri Meunier What It’s About: The filmmaker’s chronicle of the flow of everyday life in the medieval town of Najac in southwestern France, where he and his family moved from downtown Paris in search of a gentler pace of life. What to Look For: The ordinary magic of life unfolds on- screen as we watch the tragedy and comedy of human exis- tence naturally intertwine to make a fragile poetry. Why It Matters: A genuinely good and charming documen- tary that will, as the filmmaker so aptly notes, “make you feel more happy and less stupid.” TOUCH THE SOUND, 2004, Germany/UK 99 min., documentary; director: Thomas Riedelsheimer What It’s About: This journey through the sense of hearing is guided by acclaimed Scottish solo percussionist Evelyn Glen- nie who, as a result of a neurological disorder, is almost com- pletely deaf. As we follow her performances from New York to Tokyo and visit at her studio outside Glasgow, she discusses her views of the sensory world, and we hear the sounds she coaxes from a variety of everyday items, as well as from tradi- tional instruments. What to Look For: This is not only a documentary about a delightful and articulate person, but a poetic exploration of how we sense and communicate. The film asks us to consider whether we would perceive our surroundings differently if we relied as extensively on our ears as we do on our eyes. BY ANGELA PRESSBURGER MOVIES THAT MATTER