was the Seaddattha when the Bamiyan valley Buddhas were destroyed Afghanistan?
Instead, the secret society is plundering Kyoto’s Buddha statues, supposedly
for their own protection. However, a
young girl quickly learns things are not as they seem in Ujicha’s mind-bending
animated feature, The Burning Buddha Man (trailer here), which screens
tomorrow as an official selection of the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival.
Beniko is suddenly alone in the world. Her
parents, or at least their torsos, disappeared while protecting their temple’s
Buddha statue from an uncanny intruder, while the grandmother she never really
knew remains in a mystical catatonic state.
Enju, a monk who claims to be a friend of the family, welcomes her into
his retreat. He explains to the baffled
girl how the Seaddattha have perfected matter transference to enable their
crime spree. He also introduces her to
his son Enji, a carver of Buddha statues, whose techniques might just prevent the
sort of fusion tragedies that befell her parents. Then things get really, really weird.
through a mix of the “gekimation” style of paper cut-out animation and live
action (largely reserved for spurting vomit and blood), Burning has an absolutely bizarre look and vibe. Think of it as equal parts H.R. Giger, René
Laloux, and South Park. You have never seen a film like this,
particularly considering how seriously it treats its Buddhist subject matter,
notwithstanding the scatological bits. As Beniko raises her consciousness to battle
her powerful nemesis, she seeks not to kill but to reform his corrupted
soul. That is a noble sentiment, so good
luck with that.
Burning, the themes and visuals trump
bourgeoisie characterization and narrative cohesion. It is a massively archetypal head-trip. You would not consider it traditional anime
by any stretch, yet one can see the hints of shared old school elements when
the forces of good and evil fuse themselves into Golem like creatures for the
final cosmic battle.
Even though Burning
features a resilient young heroine and a respect for both religion and the
sanctity of life, it is not exactly appropriate for family viewing. Sure, an occasional head explodes, but the
film’s motifs and implications would just be too challenging for mortal parents
to explain. Recommended for fans of animation and cult cinema with a taste for the
profound and the eccentric, The Burning
Buddha Man screens this Monday (7/22) at the J.A. De Seve Theatre as part
of this year’s Fantasia Festival. Anyone
remotely near Montreal who is in anyway intrigued should see it when they
can. Those attending the fest should definitely
also check out Big Bad Wolves, Black Out,
Confession of Murder, Drug War, Ip Man: the Final Fight, It’s Me It’s Me, The Last Tycoon, The Rooftop, Thermae Romae, and When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep. More to come.
Labels: Animated films, Buddhism on film, Fantasia '13, Japanese Cinema