Jul 26, 2013

The Meaning of Life: Meetings with Remarkable Men

In the fall of 1979, during my sophomore year of college, the Cineplex had a poster advertising Meetings with Remarkable Men (1979).  It showed a man walking through a parched rocky landscape, like the desert world of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker's home in Star Wars.  So I figured it was science fiction.

And a movie about how to meet men had to be good!

Not sci-fi after all.  A Russian guy named Gurdjieff (Mikica Dimitrijevic, left, Dragan Maksimovic) wanders around looking for the Meaning of Life.  And meeting men.  Lots of them, some attractive, most with no heterosexual interest.

Pogossian (Donald Sumpter, top photo), a theological student in Armenia, who invites Gurdijeff to live with him (hint, hint).

Prince Lubovedsky (Terence Stamp of the gay-positive Billy Budd and Priscilla Queen of the Desert), who tells him that the mysterious Sarmoung Brotherhood of Sufi Islam knows the Meaning of Life.

 Karpenko (British teen idol Gerry Sundquist, left), who joins Gurdjieff's all-male commune in Constantinope.  How much of a gay subtext do you need?

Not a lot of beefcake.  In fact, most of the movie involves Gurdjieff walking, walking, walking endlessly through the desert of Afghanistan standing in for Turkey, Armenia, and Persia.  It really looks like another planet, except it's a lot more boring than anything Luke Skywalker encountered.

When he finally reaches the Sarmoung monastery, he learns that we are all sleepwalking.  We need a jolt to wake us up, let us see the world as it really is.  That's the Meaning of Life.

Or maybe it's starting an all-male commune full of cute guys.

Later I discovered that there was a real spiritual teacher named G.I. Gurdjieff (1866-1949), who wrote a long series of semi-allegorical memoirsHe was, by all accounts, an unpleasant fellow, bitterly, vocally homophobic, sort of the Jerry Falwell of the spiritual movement.   Although he didn't seem to mind lesbians. 

See also: The Penis Cemetery of Iran.