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Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Moviesby Dean Sluyter
Synopses & Reviews
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Dare to Be Dopey
So, in planning a new picture, we don't think of grown-ups and we don’t think of children, but just of that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us, that the world has maybe made us forget and maybe our pictures can help recall. -Walt Disney
As a role model, Snow White sucks. She's an utterly passive fairy-tale heroine who climbs no beanstalks and slays no dragons. She has no talents but housecleaning and no interests beyond pining away for that Special Someone who will someday come and solve all her problems. Her shrill, girly voice attests to her empty-headed helplessness-she's sisters-under-the-skin with the old politically incorrect Teen Talk Barbie that sighed, Math is hard All she is is young and pretty, and not smart enough to understand that one day, like the Queen, she'll be forty and washed up.
This sort of critique is valid as long as we're viewing the film on a strictly literal level. But on that level, Jack and the Beanstalk teaches us to solve our problems by stealing and killing, and Christ's parables are pointless stories about pearls and swine, lost sheep and mustard seeds. If we look at it in the right light and from the right angle, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length cartoon ever made, turns out to be an extended dharma parable, its teachings as exquisitely detailed as they are unintended.
Back in 1937, when the film was in production, the press called it Disney's Folly. Even Roy Disney, Walt’s brother and partner, wanted to stick to their wildly popular Mickey Mouse shorts, fearful that the project would sink the studio. Walt kept hiring more artists, hundreds of them, and going back to the bank for more money. To realize his vision, new technology was developed (a giant multiplane camera to add layers of perspective), an in-house art school was established, live dancers and dwarfs were filmed and copied, chemists mixed 1,500 custom paint colors, and teams of animators worked around the clock for months, fired up by Walt's relentless perfectionism. As one artist said, Disney had only one rule: whatever we did had to be better than anybody else could do it, even if you had to animate it nine times.
The result tapped in to something universal, and Snow White became the first great international blockbuster of the sound era. True, it set in motion the Disney juggernaut-of-cuteness that would eventually crush every delicate, wistful children's classic in sight (poor Pooh ), but that’s another story. Visually, the film is still stunning today, in such scenes as the climactic storm, where the fall and splatter of each individual raindrop is hand-rendered with painstaking predigital craftsmanship. But most remarkable is how, out of the intensely concentrated awareness of some 1,000 collaborating artists (writers, animators, colorists, actors, musicians, and more) emerged a self-portrait of awareness itself: our pristine, snow-white inmost being, with its innate yearning to find fulfillment in the arms of the Prince Charming of enlightenment.
But enlightenment, in all its expansiveness, is an unfamiliar realm. So the film begins with the all-too-familiar constrictedness of unenlightenment, in the person of Snow White's stepmother, the Queen, closeted in the dark, claustrop
Movie fans and spiritual seekers, unite! InCinema Nirvana, meditation teacher and award-winning film critic Dean Sluyter illuminates the hidden enlightenment teachings ofCasablanca,Jaws,The Graduate,The Godfather,Memento, and ten other classic films, revealing spiritual wisdom in everything from 007's secret weapons to the colors of the Seven Dwarfs' eyes. So grab your popcorn, sit back, and prepare to have your mind opened.Cinema Nirvanais a funny but wise, practical but wildly entertaining guide to finding enlightenmentone movie at a time.
Table of Contents
Table of contents only: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip0418/2004014191.html.
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