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DVD Review: Zen Noir

Movie: Zen Noir
Director: Marc Rosenbush
Reviewed by Brian Schell
English, 71 Minutes
Amazon Link

I saw the trailers for this movie last winter, and it looked hilarious, so when I finally had a chance to watch the film, I jumped at it. Zen humor is not something you see everyday, and this was obviously advertised as a comedy.

The movie is narrated in the first person by a 30’s hard-boiled detective type, clearly a Mike Hammer parody, complete with tough-guy monologues and beard stubble. The action starts out with a chuckle, as an old Zen monk sits in a room with other monks meditating. He keels over and dies, but the others are so into their meditation they don’t even notice. When the detective arrives and starts asking questions about the murder‚Ķ Well, you know what kind of answers you get when you ask a question in Zen.

The first 25 minutes or so were rough. The back and forth rapid-fire questions and non-answers got old fast, and the overuse of Noir and Zen cliches got to the point of silliness, which was probably intentional, but still wasn’t very funny. By around the 20-minute mark, I was ready to declare this the “stupidest movie ever.” Then the silliness slowed down and the Zen took over.

There was still the occasional funny line, such as when the detective asks the Master,
“What happens when we, you know‚ die?”
“Don’t know.”
“Why not?”
“Not dead yet!” OK, so humor of that sort is in the delivery.

There are dozens of images of oranges and glimpses of oranges In different scenes and positions flashing onscreen throughout the drama. Once the meaning of the orange is explained, many things become clear, both in the movie and in real Zen itself. There really is a lot of Zen in the movie, and it was obviously very cleverly written.

Yet, I still have to ask myself, is it entertaining? The problem is that even after watching the movie, I cannot answer that one. This is definitely one of those love-it or hate-it movies, and I suspect most audiences are going to be split down the middle. If someone is fairly knowledgeable about basic Zen ideas, then there is a message in the ending; however, for the person who isn’t very familiar with Zen ideas, this is going to be a seriously boring movie that makes no sense whatsoever.

I’m going to give this one a 3/5 since I really just don’t know what to think‚Ķ Or maybe I should give it a 5/5 for the same reason.

Sigh. Zen makes me crazy sometimes.

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