A nameless 'noir' detective, still mourning the loss of his wife, investigates a mysterious death in a Buddhist temple, but his logical, left-brained crime-solving skills are useless in the intuitive, non-linear world of Zen.

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The Detective
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The Master
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Jane
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Ed
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Nora (as Jennifer Siebel)
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The Dead Monk
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A nameless 'noir' detective, still mourning the loss of his wife, investigates a mysterious death in a Buddhist temple, but his logical, left-brained crime-solving skills are useless in the intuitive, non-linear world of Zen.

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death | detective | zen | buddhist | sword | See All (56) »

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Sometimes the mystery is bigger than you think

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Comedy | Drama | Mystery

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21 April 2004 (USA)  »

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May Or May Not Be Your Cup Of Tea
10 August 2011 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

As a reasonably good cinematic demonstration of the outward practice of Zen, "Zen Noir" will resonate with some viewers, annoy others, the difference owing largely to the exotic nature of the topic. The film is nothing if not different. A shallow, assembly-line Hollywood teen flick it is not.

With few exceptions, the story takes place in a meditation room, known as a Zendo. Enter a frazzled, 1940s-style "detective" trying to solve a murder. He's something of a blockhead, at least to begin with. But the contrast between his chaotic drama on the one hand, and the quiescence of the Zen students on the other, is stark, which thus conveys to some extent the point of Zen. The Zen students constantly offer the detective a cup of tea, which only frustrates and exasperates this "important" man trying to solve an "important" puzzle.

The film is in color, but most scenes appear in varying shades of black and white, with other muted tints thrown in for variety. Shadows and geometric angles add visual interest. Camera work involves lots of close-up shots. Music trends eclectic. Funky jazz alternates with complex music suggestive of the cosmic, and gong sounds punctuate throughout.

Dialogue veers toward elliptical terseness at times followed by periods of silence, during which the visuals convey the underlying message. Humor runs through the entire film. Sometimes the humor is subtle; sometimes it is more obvious.

Viewers who prefer conventional plots and big-budget Hollywood-style films will not have the patience to sit through this film. To these viewers "Zen Noir" will come across as boring or pretentious or both. For me, this low budget, indie film works. I give it high marks for originality, unusual visuals, great sound mixing, and thematic depth.


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