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Thinking About Not Thinking: Buddhism, Meditation, and Film

Monday, March 16, 2009
3:00 p.m. I Heart Huckabees
David O. Russell (U.S., 2004)

Lecture by Robert Sharf

Special admission prices apply: General admission, $11.50; BAM/PFA members, $7.50; UC Berkeley students, $5.50; Seniors, disabled persons, UC Berkeley faculty and staff, non–UC Berkeley students, and youth 17 and under, $8.50.

Buddhism teaches that everything we hold to be true, everything we hold most dear, is in some sense an “empty” conceptual construct, and that the solution to human suffering is to recognize the ephemerality of the world around us. Yet Buddhism also emphasizes compassion—although a saint or bodhisattva recognizes that suffering itself is an illusion, he or she must still act to alleviate that suffering. David O. Russell’s “existential comedy” plays out the struggle between emptiness and compassion, withdrawal and engagement, alienation and interconnectedness.—Robert Sharf

Tossed together in the metaphysical maelstrom of I Heart Huckabees are Jason Schwartzman as a young activist determined to save endangered wetlands from the encroachment of discount department store Huckabees, and Mark Wahlberg as a firefighter stricken with environmental angst; Jude Law as a willfully unenlightened Huckabees exec, and Naomi Watts as the store’s spokesmodel; Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman as “existential detectives” who believe everything is connected, and Isabelle Huppert as a charismatic nihilist who believes everything is falling apart.

• Written by Russell, Jeff Baena. Photographed by Peter Deming. With Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law. (107 mins, Color, 35mm, From Criterion Pictures)