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4.4 out of 5 stars
70
4.4 out of 5 stars
Kundun [DVD] [1998]
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on 16 April 2006
This film is the story of the Dalai Lama, which takes us from the point of his discovery as a child to his arrival at the Indo-Tibetan border in 1959, about to begin his exile. It is a very well-made film all round, and evokes mid-20th century Tibet very convincingly and atmospherically. It even manages to avoid grossly misrepresenting Buddhism, which is quite an achievement for a Hollywood film. This is about as good a biographical film of the Dalai Lama as one could have hoped for, definitely worth watching.
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on 18 January 2003
Kundun was buried upon its release- perhaps due to the introduction of capitalism to China, which saw the usual logos & people like Murdoch/Fox open up the "free market". Watching it, it is clear that it didn't have to soften it's depiction of China like Tomorrow Never Dies, but like the sappy thriller Red Corner (banned in China)it was poorly supported by the people who made it (though it did manage some token Oscar nominations).
This is such as shame, as there is much great about it- Scorsese always making the best film he could and only really disappointing with more conventional fare like The Color of Money & Cape Fear. As with Oliver Stone's Heaven & Earth, the public stayed away from this film- seeming to prefer watered down buddhist notions in stuff like The Matrix, The Phantom Menace etc...
It's as visually sumptuous as Scorsese's associate Paul Schrader's Mishima (1985)- which it reminds me of as that too had a score from Philip Glass (which sounds very close to Koyaanisqatsi at times, especially as one of the Dalai Lama's visions resembles a scene from Geoffrey Reggio's classic). You can see where people like Dante Ferretti came in- extending on the decadent epic veneer of The Age of Innocence, this is most definitely leading to much of the look of recent Scorsese classic Gangs of New York.
The screenplay, by Melissa Mathison (ET), is a little flat in parts- but I mostly gave myself over to the flow of the imagery & the fantastic cinematography of Roger Deakins. As many reviews note, the sequence that sees the Dalai Lama stand in a city of bodies of his people is one of the most potent in cinematic history (nice also to see Scorsese playing down the film references, though as with Mean Streets- we do get some movies the characters watch on screen).
Kundun is certainly not the dud many reviews at the time suggested, it's as strong as Casino, Age of Innocence & Bringing Out the Dead in terms of Scorsese's 90's canon (though I have to disagree with the review that states the public only come out for his gangster flicks- what about Cape Fear, a big box office hit? Or the critically revered Raging Bull, now considered the best film of the 80's? Or Taxi Driver??). I especially liked the sequences with Mao in- notable how this wasn't critiqued by historians when a similar scene in Stone's Nixon (1995) was! Kundun is a film you have to let take over you, easily matching Bertolucci's The Last Emperor or Cronenberg's underrated M Butterfly. Not the best Scorese film, but evidence that he is always prepared to move in unexpected artistic directions & has advanced the epic form towards the transcendetal.
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on 24 December 2005
Very good and unusual film. Absolutely unHollywood and probably not suitable for (sadly) vast majority of public. If you want mindless action, silly love plot with another sex bomb, stupid jokes, patriotic slogans, sugary happy end etc- forget about this movie. It is all about human spirit, devotion, peace and inner awakening. Beautiful scenes and authentic surroundings just add to it. My deepest respect to director for doing this movie for rather spiritual than financial reasons as it was never going to be an another blockbuster. Masterpiece but for somebody with heart, brain and conciousness only.
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on 7 September 2011
A truly heartwarming film. A true story charting the young Dalai Lama and the troubles he faced from a young child from the Chinese. It's a film I could etch again and again.
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on 30 April 2000
This film is amazing. It is a shame that so few people have seen it, but that just makes it all the more special.
I saw it at the cinema, then one boring Sunday night I rented it out to watch it again, this time with my mother. I tried not to tell her too much about it as I knew she would not be interested. When she saw it though she thought it was great. She often mentions 'that film about the little boy Dalai Lama'. She wasn't to keen about the mountain burials though ...
The cinematography, the costumes, the sets, the music, all of these contribute to a really special film. It is a shame that people will only turn out to a Scorsese film when it contains physical violence and / or the Mafia. This film is definitely one of his best. When is it coming out on widescreen?
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on 16 July 2006
This is a beautiful film, in both style and subject matter. The scenes and cinematography are outstanding and the story of the Dalai Lama's early life and exile are fascinating to watch. This is a great place to go if you wish to learn about this turbulent time in Tibet and isn't too biased or 'Hollywood' either. Great!

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 21 October 2010
This film is an accurate telling of what happened to Tibet and the Dalai Lama - from the years when he was recognised as the 14th Dalai Lama to his exile to India. Beautifully filmed, historically accurate, I loved the music and scenery - it is also sad as the story it is telling is sad, showing great resilience of character in the main historical characters.
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on 23 April 2013
This is a beautiful Movie, telling the Story of the 14th Dali Lamar, and the world he came from, a world that sadly has been lost for many Tibetans! This Movie has real Depth and understanding of the Tibetan Buddhist world, and how the Greed of the modern world has took all it could, even there silence, as you will see when watching this Movie, the Story, acting, scenes and music are simply beautiful. It is funny how in life the most trivial things mean the most! a lesson many of us need to learn. I simply love this Movie, it may also be because i take a huge interest in Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and Taoism so it appeals to my nature! This aside though, it is a nice Movie although a little Sad at times.
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on 16 January 2008
A good biographical and spiritual film of the 14th Dalai Lama from his discovery, early life and sadly his exile. A truly great film to watch. Big up for Tibet
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on 23 January 2011
Certainly worth having in your collection. It is a truly remarkable masterpiece of the world cinema which doesn't fade with time. The quality of the dvd was perfect, too.
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