TIBET: A BUDDHIST TRILOGY (Graham Coleman) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Though the plight of Tibetan Buddhists is fairly well known, we're less familiar with their practices. That's why director Graham Coleman, a Buddhist scholar, spends only a few minutes with the Dalai Lama and offers only a few sentences of explanation before launching into extended scenes of Buddhist debate, meditation and ritual, shot very plainly at monasteries in Nepal.
His centrepiece is a lengthy ritual called A Beautiful Ornament. Occasional simple animations reveal the monks' visualizations as they chant, drum and blow horns. Subtitles translate and offer a lucid commentary on Buddhist principles, the ritual's purpose and the monks' relation to the gods they're invoking. It's just enough information to keep us oriented while allowing the chanting to flow uninterrupted. This is Buddhism from a Buddhist point of view.
Like the original four-hour version from 1979, this recut, re-mastered 134-minute print works beautifully as an unadorned look into a lived religion and a close approximation of a meditative experience. (Bloor Cinema, May 19-25).