Saturday, November 16, 2013

Recommended films

I have a degree from USC School of Cinematic Arts, yet I rarely talk about films. Here I wish to recommend some films – with a caveat that many will not agree and thus beware – along with a bit of explanation of what I see in them.

Nema Aviona Za Zagreb

Starring Timothy Leary and Meher Baba

This film will one day, in my opinion, be considered one of the great masterpieces of the 21st century. It was begun in 1964, and completed in 2012, 48 years after principal photography began, the longest film in production in cinema history (I checked the Book of World Records), directed by the Dutch documentary filmmaker Louis van Gasteren. This film creates its own genre, and can't be categorized. I see it as the Siddhartha of our time in cinema -- the story of a seeker that meets the Buddha but does not stay, but is transformed by his encounter. The film is one of the most difficult to understand, and the most profitable to those that make the effort to unravel its story. As the editor, Ilja Lammers, writes of it, "Observe and participate." The film mixes 35mm professionally shot film with 8mm home movies, color with black and white, documentary with professional actors, autobiography with global history, introspection with external examination, existential seriousness with absurd comedy, humor and deeply moving pathos. Currently unavailable in the United States. Shot in ten countries in five languages, available in Dutch with English subtitles. An absolute masterpiece. And features the Avatar of the age Meher Baba against a backdrop of 60s mayhem and discovery.

The first time I watched the film I was moved but had no idea what I had just watched. The second time it began to make sense. The third time I got it. It was worth the effort.

Bukowski: Born Into This

Starring Charles Bukowski

In this documentary film about the pre-beat poet made with full cooperation with his wife after his death from archival footage, we see Bukowski's tormented life unfold, go through an incredible arch of change, and become something like a koan.

Charles Bukowski
At least 13 films have been made about Bukowski, including the well-known 1987 Hollywood film Barfly starring Mickey Roark. But none is as deep and touching as Bukowski: Born Into This. Bukowski was a serious drunk, a simple postal worker in L.A., and a great genius.

After decades of his ruckus life with many marriages, Bukowski finally marries a Baba lover and settles down. She manages to get him to give up hard liquor and drink only beer. Near the end of his life, his books begin to sell and he retires. At one point in the film, in archive footage, he kicks his wife at the end of the couch and says he's had enough of her "Meher Baba b*****t!"

But then something strange happens. After living with Baba's name and pictures around him, he stops drinking and takes up meditating. A film that every Baba lover should see -- with a strong stomach and an open mind.

Harry and Tonto

Starring Art Carney, who won an academy award for his role as the old man who unintentionally became a seeker.

In this 1974 film directed by  Paul Mazursky, Harry is an old pensioner (a retired school teacher) who is evicted from his NY tenement building, with only his cat Tonto.

Not knowing where to go, he heads west, in what turns into an adventure and a road movie. Harry discovers mixed up kids, ends up with a prostitute, in jail with an Indian medicine man, saying goodbye to his old love . . . one adventure after another.

But early in the film he encounters a boy, his grandson I believe, that is keeping silent. Coming into his grandson's room, we see a poster of Meher Baba on the wall as they discuss drugs, life, and Art Carney tries to give loving advice.

The film winds up with Harry alone without his cat, but in a touching ending, having been changed by his journey. I can't give it away.

An interesting side-note I heard about this film. A Baba lover named John Page, who lives in LA, remembers working in a bookstore in the mid-70s when the director Paul Mazursky walked in and purchased the Don't Worry Be Happy Baba poster that appears in the film. Also, in the features of the DVD, if you are fortunate enough to get hold of it, Mazursky explains that he had been handed a Don't Worry Be Happy card in the 1960's and always kept it in his wallet. This card inspired him to seek out the poster for the scene in the film.

One of Kitty Davy's favorite films.

See also: Meher Baba in Harry and Tonto
and The Power of Film

Update 9-6-14:

Paul Mazorsky Remembered. Mentions a poster size picture of Meher Baba on the stage at his memorial service, and it says no one knew why it was there. Now you do.


  1. Thanks for posting this Chris and letting us know about the Van Gasteren film's release? How did you get a copy?-Bob

    1. I borrowed it from Sheila Krynski.

    2. Paul Mazursky's "Harry and Tonto"....great film......with poster of Meher Baba in trailer..