Thursday, November 12, 2009

Conan The Bodhisattva: Film Studies With Dan

I like quotes from movies. Reservoir Dogs. Big Trouble in Little China. Tommy Boy. In an old Edmonton Journal column I once posited--inconceivable as it may seem--that the greatest pick-up lines in the world are lines from The Princess Bride.

Wrestler One (*) and I often amuse ourselves by quoting Transformers: The Animated Movie back and forth at each other. I've never met anyone else who knows it that well. My favorite line is one I use whenever someone ignores my helpful advice. In my best Orson Welles as Unicron voice I say. "Very well. Proceed on your way to oblivion."

Maybe I'm getting too into Buddhism but, I was watching Conan the Barbarian recently and something occurred to me.

As an action movie, Conan is plodding and slow. As a isn't one. It's just a collection of scenes held together by the loosest of thru-lines.

But as a meditation piece, it's awesome (**). Where the Buddha talked about the suffering and the end of suffering, Conan asks the question "What is best in life?"

Every character in the movie seems to take a stab (sometimes literally) at that question. What can one believe in? Love? Revenge? Money? Power? Faith? Technology? Enemy-crushing and the resulting female lamentations? Every person in the movie is driven by their own answer to that is their ultmate fate.

Think about it. The film opens with Conan's father giving his answer:

"The secret of steel has always carried with it a mystery. You must learn its riddle, Conan. You must learn its discipline. For no one - no one in this world can you trust. Not men, not women, not beasts.
[Points to sword] This you can trust. "

It's a convincing and poetic speech, and only slightly undermined by the fact that less than ten minutes Conan Sr. delivers it, he is eaten by wolves.

So much for trusting the sword.

That's okay. Conan may not have his father, but there is no force stronger than a mother's love...oh, wait. She just got her head chopped off by the guy who plays Eric Roberts' taekwon-do coach in Best of the Best.

It sounds crazy, but I'm sure I'm right about this. Everyone from the gladiators to Thulsa Doom to Subotai to the dead skeleton king put their faith in something. And where did it get them?

Watch the movie to find out.

So what's the answer? According to the movie, what is best in life?

I don't actually know. I got bored and stopped watching. If I wanted to meditate, I would have fucking meditated. This is supposed to be a damn action movie.

But one quote stayed with me. I don't know why, but the old king said something that kept me up thinking for a long, long while:

"There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father's love for his child."

I'm not a father. Partly because of circumstance, party because I decided seeking fame and fortune was more important to me.


Now I really HAVE to make it as a famous salsa-dancing, Buddhist, comedian/relationship writer.

After all, if my throne room becomes a prison, then I want to be able to afford a sweet stereo system for it.

(*)Who competes in OSCW, next show November 21 at the Hazeldean Dome, getchur' tickets NOW

(**) Granted, my views on movies are a little skewed. I still believe that the Nightmare on Elm Street series is not really about a dream-stalking monster but about parenthood and the generation gap--going full circle when Nancy, the daughter in the first film, becomes the mother in the New Nightmare. Except for the second one. That one was about being gay.


Anonymous said...

A Boddhisattva choosing revenge?

Dan_Brodribb said...

Well...he's a work in progress.