May 27, 2012

elephant events: Photos of Mountainfilm. ~ Jon Wall

A good amount of times, it begins with a drive (or a cart and musk oxen).

Eleven p.m. from Carbondale with my dog Kala. Part wolf pup, part koala bear—very fluffy. She’s not the best co-pilot, as she can’t use a map, and tends to howl at irregular intervals, but she’s not the worst either.

A combination of gas station amphetamines, spotty BBC world service, twisty roads and cruise control (5-10mph over the posted limit) got me into the insulated fortress of Telluride in the early morning hours, a little over three hours from the start.

The morning brought Mountainfilm, the biggest exhibition of nakedness and rock and roll since Rod Stewart’s reunion tour.

Look around. The streets are bustling.

Here and there, hellos and handshakes.

Mountainfilm appears to be many things, but what it undoubtedly is is a celebration of culture, artistry, and relationships (between people and people and people and place, or a thousand other variations).

Saturday morning’s film, The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom is a film about place.

It is about identity. It is about birth and death. The setting is Japan, a week after the Tsunami that killed thousands upon thousands upon thousands of men, women, of children—people washed away in a unworldly flood of garbage and flame.

Accompanied by a procession of rolling piano, the film flashes images of  a shattered Japan, knocked to its knees by something timeless. Something that trains, and airplanes, and cappuccinos, and ipads, and central heating, down duvets, and breakfast cereal make it easy to forget. Pushed far back in the recesses of memory with those things primal and without morality.

Through her film, Lucy Walker shows us these things, and then she shows us a people afflicted by them. The film delves into the suffering delivered, like a hammer on porcelain, by the tsunami, and overlays it, examines the intersection, with a tree that is both natural icon—diffuse and objective—and spiritual touchstone.

The cherry blossom is a tree that blooms quickly, with incomparable beauty and grace, and dies with a dance of flower on wind and water. The Greeks held the beauty of something in parallel with the idea that it would eventually be extinguished. The film tells the story of a people that are aware of a moment. They are aware of the hidden things, and even as these ideas can be shaken and shattered, they remain—though we question in just what manner that is.

The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom drifts along the line of death, telling that a beauty of a thing is forever transient and largely unknowable, like a blossom on the wind, back and forth, to be known again or never again.

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