Monday, September 02, 2013

Gathr Previews screening: Breath of the Gods

Another week, another stop at the Regent Theatre on my way home from work, including a stop at Elton's Roast Beef, because it's a pretty decent grease merchant close to the theater that will get you food quickly enough that there's no worry about bumpint into the start of the movie. Always an important criterion when you're looking at 10pm or so before arriving home.

The co-presenter this week was The Arlington International Film Festival, which takes place in late October but has a number of events scheduled that will lead up to the main event. There was also a live event that tied in on Thursday, and the theater itself is right around the corner from a yoga school, so it wasn't surprising that there was a pretty decent turnout.

I kind of wonder how the film played for folks who already had some yoga knowledge. I found it interesting enough, in the way that I generally enjoy learning new things, but it didn't exactly link up with anything else in my head or inspire me to learn more. I wonder where this fits for the more knowledgeable audience member - things everybody knows but presented fairly well, interesting but not necessarily important extra information, or thing that makes for a much better understanding?

It's interesting, at least. Anyway, the next show in the preview series is tomorrow (the 3rd), and it will be interesting to see what attendance is like: It should be something pretty audience-friendly (it stars Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, and a fair number of other folks people have heard of), but is not, I believe, getting the benefit of another organization helping to drive traffic.

Breath of the Gods

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 26 August 2013 in the Regent Theatre (Gathr Preview Presents, digital)

Jan Schmidt-Garre's Breath of the Gods is not a movie advocating yoga as much as it is an overview of the modern form's history. In fact, it's almost certainly going to be of strongest interest to those who are already devotees of the technique. However, the very fact that so many of the early masters are around and active certainly makes an argument in favor of its health benefits.

Legend has it that yoga was handed down directly from the Hindu gods in ancient times, but its most modern form was codified by T. Krishnamacharya, a scholar born near the present-day village of Muchukunte in 1888. Skilled at reading Sanskrit, he memorized the Yoga Kuruntha from a series of rotting scrolls and, with the patronage of a local Maharajah of Mysore, founded the Yogashala, where he would teach the next generation of students, many of whom would become influential masters in their own right.

As he journeys through India to learn more about Krishnamacharya and the history of yoga, Schmidt-Garre gets to meet and learn from several of the people who learned from Krishnamaharya personally, including his children. Though many are quite elderly - Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya's first student, was in his late 90s when Schmidt-Garre spoke to him, and passed away before filming was completed - most (including Jois) were still teaching and quite sharp. Krishnamacharya's son Sri Washel gives a tour of several important places, and early student B. K. S. Iyengar - Krishnamacharya's brother-in-law as well as one of the most influential yogis of the twentieth century himself - is refreshingly unromantic in his recollections, telling stories of how Krishnamacharya was a harsh taskmaster and often gave frustratingly non-specific instruction.

Full review at EFC.

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