Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Reincarnation (movie review)

This was a movie about family, somewhat reliving a dream for me as so much of it was set in Italy with people speaking Italian. That was my boyhood.

But the focus is a Tibetan diaspora family, which takes me back to Bhutan, and the matter of fact way in which reincarnation is dealt with there.

To top it all off, I met family by happenstance at Andy & Bax earlier. Alexia and David were shopping for esoteric sporting supplies. I was drawn there by rather strong visions and ended up going from army to navy in my surplus look.

With the new boots (Bogs) I look like some fisher fleet captain, maybe a lobster guy. I should wear this outfit on Meliptus. Anyway, we ended up all going for Thai food, Tara too, at the new place on 38th and Division (first time for us with the new owners -- good dishes).

I took a break after ordering appetizers to buy mice from Twin at Rose City Reptiles, for Barry-the-python, so even more of the family was included.

Back to the film: the son of the Rimpoche is not that easy with his reputation for being his dad's reincarnated uncle or brother or teacher, or one of those. He's just another Italian kid wanting that kind of warm Latin family, a dad more there for him.

But dad, a Rimpoche trying to keep Tibetan culture alive, has somewhat heavy responsibilities, in the sense of lots of people looking to him to not drop the ball. He'd been pressed into monastic service early, as a reincarnation himself, and had escaped Tibet when the country was invaded and occupied in the 1950s.

Dogzchen is an important lineage, including in Italy these days by the looks of things, in Russia too.

The son grows into a man, marries, has kids of his own. He works for IBM. He's a hard driving executive. The cameras don't follow him into his business life much. We talk to the dad a lot, who likes floating in pools. The years fly by.

Having a documentary made of oneself, somewhat in the style of the Up series, does have an impact. The family is self-conscious anyway though, so the addition of cameras doesn't seem that obtrusive. These are unpretentious people willing to make a lasting document with their lives.

Flash forward and the son finally decides to go with his gut and his visions and start practicing his Buddhism more. He'll let his dad be his teacher in this chapter.

What drove him to this decision? For one thing, the job stress is getting to him and he needs to trance out while driving just to stay sane around work. Then come the dreams again, like when he was younger. Pretty soon he's realizing he might be on the path to becoming a Rimpoche himself.

The expectation that this reincarnated teacher might someday return to Tibet, to a major homecoming and welcome, is never far from the surface.

One might compare it to the fictional Little Buddha (I just did), but it's a much more in-your-face documentary about the everyday messiness of life. It's a teaching, a lesson in keeping it real (with forays into the surreal).

The Buddha's story is alluded to, but we don't escape into the big budget mythographic portrayals with Keanu Reeves. Instead, we have a real, worldly family, of wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, siblings, children, grandparents, the whole nine yards. And lets not forget students, colleagues, peers.

We get older, we get sick, we get well, we die, then we get young again and start over. Did the subtitles get it right, saying "conscience" instead of "consciousness"? Would either work? Lucid dreaming plays a role (something Dawn was into too).

The human family has gotten a lot smaller all of a sudden, and a lot bigger. We number in the billions, yet the planet is so small.

I thought maybe the funniest line was when the reincarnated Italian-speaking Tibetan Buddhist community organizer IBM executive is trying to get things going in Moscow, and says: "why are you Russians so complicated?" Who's calling who complicated again?