Reviewed by: Kimberley McKaig
Starring: Tenzin Thuthob, Guyrme Tehong, Tenzin Chodon, Lobsang Gyatso and Sonam Phuntsok / Director: Martin Scorsese / Released by: Buena Vista
If you are an art film buff, or your doctor has told you that you simply must slow down, “Kundun” could be just the movie for you. Martin Scorsese’s latest offering is luminous with the beauty of its costumes and truly spectacular cinematography, and as slow as cold molasses, befitting its winter 1997 release.
The story begins in Tibet near the Chinese border where a little boy is growing up in humble circumstance, but with the cutest dimples and winningest smile you’ll ever see (inside or outside of Tibet). Arriving on the scene riding worn-out horses are some rough but kindly monks who, after rudimentary testing, declare the boy to be the reincarnation of the human manifestation of Buddha, none other than the fourteenth Dalai Lama. So begins this slightly historical, mostly Lama-lovefest of a film, portraying the early life of the Buddhist holy man up until his exile to India in 1950.
All of the actors in “Kundun” are Tibetan exiles, but acting is not its focus. The beauty of the Dalai Lama’s character and the “spirituality” of his every utterance, as conveyed by screenwriter Melissa Mathison (“E.T.,” “The Black Stallion,” wife of Dalai Lama supporter Harrison Ford) are key to this second in a trilogy of Lama-loving films, beginning with 1996 “Seven Years in Tibet,” and finishing up with “Windhorse”, a low-budget release dealing with contemporary Tibet, due out in late 1998. Tibet or not Tibet. That is not the question in Hollywood these days. The Dalai Lama has supporters everywhere, from Richard Gere to Jean Kirkpatrick, and a Nobel peace prize thrown in just for good measure (and its $1 million value, I suppose). So, he’s in good hands and unless you are a devotee of Philip Glass, and of the long mournful honking of Tibetan horns he uses to such advantage in this long, sloooow score, you may rather stay home and watch the grass grow.
“Kundun” is rated PG-13 for a few brief violent images. I’d take my teens to see it, but for the boredom factor.
Editors note: Even though there is little offensive material to Christians, be sure to recognize “Kundun” has been recognized by some to promote Buddhism. For more information, you may want to explore the following material:
Year of Release—1997