Mix of Bud­dhism and se­duc­tion

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Sheri L in­den “The Fourth Noble Truth.” No MPAA rat­ing. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 28 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los An­ge­les.

Harry Ham­lin steps out of the by­gone Man­hat­tan of “Mad Men” and into con­tem­po­rary Santa Mon­ica for “The Fourth Noble Truth,” a film whose sub­ject tran­scends time and place. It’s a les­son in Bud­dhism dis­guised as a ro­man­tic pas de deux — or maybe vice versa.

Ei­ther way, this in­tro­duc­tion to the Bud­dha’s Eight­fold Path is of­ten clever and oc­ca­sion­ally ex­as­per­at­ing. Giv­ing spir­i­tual con­cepts dra­matic form, writer-direc­tor Gary T. McDon­ald’s sce­nario in­volves a pam­pered movie star’s at­tempts to se­duce his med­i­ta­tion teacher.

To avoid jail time for a road-rage as­sault, Ham­lin’s Aaron agrees to take med­i­ta­tion classes. His in­struc­tion from Rachel (Kristen Kerr), a part-time actress, un­folds as a well-ar­gued de­bate on some of the bedrock teach­ings of Bud­dhism, namely the need to dis­en­tan­gle from the de­sires, at­tach­ments and fix­a­tions that cause suf­fer­ing (and de­fine much of mod­ern life).

As Rachel guides her re­sis­tant stu­dent through the el­e­ments of the Eight­fold Path (right in­ten­tion, right speech, etc.), her mea­sured tran­quil­lity is con­tin­u­ally com­pli­cated by sex­ual ten­sion. Kerr cap­tures Rachel’s conf licted out­look, and Ham­lin’s ef­fort­less turn re­veals a charmer grad­u­ally stripped of his de­fenses. The well-paired duo nav­i­gate a sub­tly shift­ing line, but Rachel’s de­ter­mi­na­tion not to be­come the lat­est of Aaron’s con­quests grows tire­some, their im­passes repet­i­tive.

At its sharpest, McDon­ald’s med­i­ta­tively paced story em­bod­ies the ab­sur­di­ties and com­pro­mises of be­ing hu­man — with a Hol­ly­wood slant. On the set of a big-bud­get war movie, Rachel and Aaron, cos­tumed as a hooker and a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, dis­cuss the pre­cept of right liveli­hood.

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