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Samsara - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
cinema_holic
cinema_holic
Samsara
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Directing: B+
Cinematography: A+
Editing: B+



Samsara has no discernible narrative. It almost feels like a stretch even to call it a documentary, unless the subject is simply 21st Century Planet Earth. It feels totally random, and right from he start: the opening image is of some far-east young girls dancing in traditional dress, jerking their bodies in ways that make them almost look like robots -- something their wide, unblinking eyes do even more to do. Cut to: erupting volcanic ash and streaming lava. Both images are equally stunning, especially on the 70mm film this entire movie was made with, but in completely different and unrelated ways.

The only other movie even remotely like this was Baraka, made by the same person (Ron Fricke), and that came out in 1992. It got a second theatrical release roughly ten years ago, which I didn't realize at the time, thinking it was something new. It took a while to realize the jarring aerial shots it contained of burning oil fields in Kuwait were far more immediately topical when the film was first made.

Samsara doesn't feel so much like a sequel as it does a continuation. The nature of its presentation is nearly identical, which means the edge Baraka has over it is conceptual originality. In the context of its time, Samsara definitely has more immediacy at present, but that will only be the case for so long.

It's really a simple collage of images, but simple only in their presentation, not in their procurement. As seems to be Fricke's usual intention, these images show the best and worst of our world. It's worth noting that the shots of urban squalor are less surprising than the shots of truly stunning natural beauty. Why should we be so desensitized to the former but not the latter? I can't remember the last time I said "Oh my god" out loud to a movie, for no other reason than the visuals, and in this case it was because of how gorgeous it was. And this was just rocks in water, really.

There's not a single line of dialogue in this movie. I can't make any judgment of the writing because there really isn't any. Fricke merely spent five years getting amazing footage of the goings-on in our world, and spliced them together. I wonder at the footage that ended up on the cutting room floor. He seems to focus mostly on North America, Europe and Asia. There are brief stops in Africa. I don't recall much from South Asia or Australia or South America. It's not a very balanced portrait of our entire world, but it's a valiant effort, and it's a gorgeous one.

Is Fricke trying to say anything in particular? It doesn't feel like he is. If anything, he's saying, "This just is." Self-mutilated African tribesmen and women. A proud gun-toting family, young girl posing with her pink rifle. There are many slow tracking shots of people posing, always expressionless. No negative or positive value is ever placed on them, any more so than the many scenes of nature or vast expanses of garbage or animals being factory farmed.

I wouldn't recommend watching Samsara if you're sleepy. It'll lull you right to sleep, and then you'll have wasted fifteen dollars. That's what Cinerama is charging for tickets to this movie. Curiously, Samsara is currently in limited release, only in New York and Seattle -- an unusual move indeed. Perhaps it's because Cinerama was designed for presenting 70mm films. It certainly looks beautiful on that screen.

Just one of countless arresting images in SAMSARA.


Overall: B+
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2 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 13th, 2016 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
You missed the point. Such a shame.
cinema_holic From: cinema_holic Date: March 13th, 2016 05:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
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Thanks for the insight. I'll be sure to give it the attention it deserves.
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2 comments or Leave a comment