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Samsara, the title of the new wordless, non-narrative documentary from the creators of 1992’s similarly structured Baraka, is a Sanskrit word referencing, more or less, the circle of life. If that doesn’t reek of patchouli enough for you, the film is also bookended by trips to a Buddhist temple, features a score that sounds taken from a CD purchased at the counter of an organic food co-op, and, through its juxtaposition of images, expresses a disapproving view of the modern industrialized world. Anyone allergic to New Age-isms will break out in hives. Put aside those aversions, however, and Samsara is, without question, the most visually intoxicating film of year. Shot in gleaming 70 mm by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, the movie travels to 25 countries—from hurricane-ravaged New Orleans to East Africa, from Egyptian apartment complexes built in view of the pyramids to a Bangkok strip club full of undulating “lady-boys”—and paints an astounding portrait of human existence. (Narrowing down any single moment for highlighting is difficult, but for me, it might be the procession of pallbearers carrying a coffin shaped like a handgun.) Whether or not it’s as profound as the filmmakers want it to be depends on your predilection toward enlightenment, but as a travelogue, Samsara is simply goddamned beautiful. 


Special Note

Fox Tower.
  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Critic's Score: A
  • Watch the trailer

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