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A shorter but no less powerful `Tibet' trilogy

April 07, 2006|Kevin Crust

The original version of the meditative 1979 documentary "Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy" (which played the Nuart in June 1983) clocked in at nearly four hours. It returns in a digitally restored, re-cut edition.

Writer-director Graham Coleman and producer-photographer David Lascelles spent four years making the film with the objective of portraying the Tibetan way of life as it exists in exile in Northern India. In three parts, the film patiently unwraps the details of daily monastic life. Observation and translation is emphasized over explanation or interpretation.

In "The Dalai Lama, the Monasteries and the People," filmed in Dharamsala, we see monks vigorously arguing sides of an ethical dilemma and the Dalai Lama -- the Tibetans' political and spiritual leader -- instructing a group of monks and greeting laypeople. The middle hour of the film, "Radiating the Fruit of Truth," chronicles a monastery in Nepal preparing for and enacting a ritual called "a beautiful ornament." The final section, "The Field of Senses," filmed in the mountains of Ladakh, follows monks responding to the death of a villager.

The single most powerful visual theme is that of impermanence, evocatively made clear through the monks' burning of the artwork they painstakingly made for the ritual in Part 2 and the unflinching depiction of a cremation in Part 3.

-- Kevin Crust


MPAA rating: Unrated.

"Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy," running time: 2 hours, 14 minutes. In Tibetan with English commentary and subtitles. Exclusively at the Westside Pavilion Cinemas, 10800 Pico Blvd. at Overland Avenue. (310) 281-8223.

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