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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lopate's Profane Meditation

Cited by Donato Totaro in his essay on Sokurov's Confession, Phillip Lopate talks about the CCC type of films in his recent collection of essays Totally, Tenderly, Tragically (1998). Lopate refers to such "moving" movie experiences as a form of profane meditation:
"It may sound farfetched to speak of watching a movie as a meditative discipline... but parallels do exist. There is a familiar type of meditation called one-pointedness, which focuses the meditator's attention through the repetition of a single sound or mental image. Yet another meditation practice encourages the sitter to let thoughts fall freely and in a disorientated manner, without anchoring them to any one point. ...At first I used to resist my mind's wandering during such films, thinking I was wasting the price of admission. But just as in Buddhist meditation one is instructed not to brush aside the petty or silly thoughts that rise up, since these "distractions" are precisely the material of the meditation, so I began to allow my movie-watching mind to yield more freely to daily preoccupations, cares, memories that arose from some image association. Sometimes I might be lost to a personal mental thread for several minutes before returning with full attention to the events on-screen; but when I did come back, it was with a refreshed consciousness, a deeper level of feeling... certain kinds of films – those with austere aesthetic means; an unhurried, deliberate pace; tonal consistency; a penchant for long shots as opposed to close-ups; an attention to backgrounds and milieu; a mature acceptance of suffering as fate – allowed me more room for meditation."
Phillip Lopate

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