Moving Experience III

To pick up where Experience II left off, Larry called on Ashley’s phone while they were still at the house (which I am now calling Casa Salsa). L. said he’d call Verizon and see what could be done. He found out that my phone is locked and that the sim card can’t be exchanged. The staffer happily offered a loaner phone on my next trip. Fat lot of good that did this time!

Before we left for the theater Ira cooked this fabulous halibut, absolutely fresh and baked with just a sprinkling of herbes de Provence with lemon on the side. We ate it with a salad and then caught a cab. As it was pitch dark, I could see very little but did catch glimpses of light reflecting off the canals and some rather majestic looking old buildings and a few interesting looking new ones.

The cab dropped us off at the Pathé Tuschinski. It is actually several structures, and we walked into the part showing first-run American films, among them Legends of the Guardians. I somehow didn’t think that a Buddhist film festival would be mixed up with that lot. The ticket seller directed us around the corner to an older, Art Deco building. We had to navigate past a tattoo parlor/sex toys shop. The poster in the window was a blond whose hair covered the vital parts and whose wrists were encased in leather studded handcuffs. Hans kept muttering “sleazy, sleazy.” I kept thinking, “funky, funky.” It reminded me of Phila. in the late 70s and early 80s, only with a greater mixture of real art in with the funk. I didn’t really get a good look at the exterior of the original Tuschinski, but the interior is an architectural gem. Hans said that the owner had commissioned the movie theater in the 1920s. It resembles an opera house with its vaulted ceilings and elaborate lighting and artwork.

All the very civilized Pathé venues serve coffee, wine and beer. The performance space, which we visited on Sunday, had dining facilities right in the lobby.

Zen opened the film festival. With glorious visuals (a common factor shared by all the films), it presents the story of Dōgen, who founded the Sōtō sect of Buddhism. As Kathryn said, who knew an entire religion began because a bunch of monks running around raping and murdering people? Dōgen, embodied to perfection by Nakamura Kantaro, pursues the search for truth and purity in China (more glorious visuals) and then back in Japan where he establishes a temple, only to be driven out by a rival sect. At more than two hours running time, the movie could have benefited from fairly serious cuts in various places, especially toward the end. In all other regards, Zen deserves every accolade. Note: As Dōgen Kantaro shaved his head and ditched the smile.

A particularly moving scene involved Dōgen’s confrontation with the shōgun who hallucinates the bodiless head of the rival shōgun he has killed. The makeup artist did a spectacular job with eyes red-rimmed from lack of sleep. Fujiwara Tatsuya captured madness without going over the top. The disembodied head and its dance with the surrounding butterflies capped the scene. (Butterflies seemed to crop up in a great many places. I suspect they have something to do with the evanescence of life, but I’m not sure.)

Lessons: The Sōtō sect began in China and is the ascetic branch of Buddhism. The leader of the Dharma sect became a follower of Dōgen and thereafter the two combined. The New Haven Zen Center practices the walking meditation much faster than the Dōgen taught. Zen practice does not preclude shedding tears, though vocal weeping seems to be frowned upon.

Tomorrow: meeting filmmakers.

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