I intend to write more about this film over coming months and years. I feel there is so much to say...
I just need to say this.
2013 has been a horrible year for me. My life has been shattered, in multiple ways, I’ve had shit thrown at me in all...
Mubi’s film critics remind me from time-to-time why I dislike them so much when one of the reviewers was shitting on Asghar Farhadi and his films.
92 new to me from the past 5 years. Favorites roughly categorized, roughly ordered:
The Big Ones
You Know, For Kids!
71 new to me pre-2008, favorites in chronological order
Sherlock Jr. - 1924
The 39 Steps - 1935
Stagecoach - 1939
His Girl Friday - 1940
The Night of the Hunter - 1955
Repulsion - 1965
The Sting - 1973
Drunken Master - 1978
Apocalypse Now - 1979
La Haine - 1995
The Mission - 1999
Sexy Beast - 2000
Zoolander - 2001
The Descent - 2005
Exiled - 2006
Paprika - 2006
The Host - 2006
Someone posted a comment criticizing my views on Samsara, so I thought it would be worth posting my response here, for posterity and transparency and my own record-keeping and maybe some more discussion.
@Laurence Thank you for commenting. Re-reading what I wrote, I can see why you might respond in the way that you did; I did not do a good job articulating my thoughts on the film and the particulars that bothered me.
As you point out, Samsara means “birth, life, death, and reincarnation”. Much of the film does an excellent job of depicting this theme. However, I still feel that some of the images that were selected to represent these concepts were exploitative, and it colored my feelings on the film.
What bothered me is absolutely not the fact that the film showed images of humans who were mostly people of color, but the *types* of images that were used. The images that don’t go beyond a simplified, stereotyped, exoticized, and/ or Othered view of POC. The black African women, topless, and their children, sitting in the dirt, shown in direct address. The ladyboys of Thailand, propositioning the camera. The woman in Geisha makeup, shown in direct address, single tear rolling down her cheek (for real, if that one didn’t make you barf a little…). I think that even the images of mass commercialization/ industrialization in China or Japan are used to the same effect. Additionally, the images of the white people that are shown are also used in the same way - poor, white Americans of the south, raising their guns. All of these images serve to say, look at the oddities, look at how strange/weird/exotic they are. Yes, the film is also saying, how wonderful, but that’s not enough for me.
I am 100% an advocate for representation of POC in media. It is an issue I discuss often, and it is a personal issue for me. Simply showing the images though, is not good enough. What is lacking is some balance. There are no images of the African middle class. I don’t remember images of Asians not in costume, I think except for those previously noted - the images of industrialization which also came off negatively to me. I don’t see why including some images that add balance to our understanding of the people of the world (painting a full portrait of humanity, if you will) would not also underline the meaning of “birth, life, death and reincarnation”.
The film takes, as its subject, exotic people and exotic locales. The images are beautiful, but the conversation it has is one that seems dated to me, and one that is tied up in issues of colonialization and exploitation. I’m glad that you loved the film and are engaging with it thoughtfully, but based on what I saw, the film is not for me.