Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mandala 曼陀羅 (1971)

Jissoji’s second film with the Art Theater Guild outperforms what was accomplished in Mujo, but perhaps I’m only saying this because Mandala contains much less dialogue, and is easier to follow than his first film, for the English-only crowd. Again, Jissoji returns to religious philosophy, as we are presented with a film about a Buddhist cult. This aspect, for me, already makes the film unique, because I can’t think of other titles that take the viewer directly into the day-to-day activities of a cult. Koreeda’s Distance comes to mind, but from the reviews I’ve read on it (haven’t plunked down the $10 for the HK disc), the topic is simply on the aftermath of cult activities. This film deals with the entire religious and recruiting processes of the cult. The cult in question seems to assault people to make them join, and as this is a 70’s film, there is plenty of rape. No, seriously, there must be at least five rapes in this film - the record goes to Jissoji. All violence aside, the pure strangeness and imagery in this film makes it worth watching, and Jissoji madcap camerawork is a little bit more sober than what I found in This Transient Life. Did I also say that the ending will surprise you?

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