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Kundun
Kundun
Actors: Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong, Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin, Tenzin Yeshi Paichang, Tencho Gyalpo
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
PG-13     1998     2hr 14min

Praised as one of the best films of the year, KUNDUN is a motion picture masterpiece directed by five-time Academy Award(R)-nominated director Martin Scorsese. It's the incredible true story of one of the world's most fasc...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong, Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin, Tenzin Yeshi Paichang, Tencho Gyalpo
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: WALT DISNEY VIDEO
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 10/14/1998
Original Release Date: 12/25/1997
Theatrical Release Date: 12/25/1997
Release Year: 1998
Run Time: 2hr 14min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

PROFOUND SPIRITUAL BEAUTY
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 10/06/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the beauties of KUNDUN comes from the way it preserves and recreates a culture that is now almost extinct, of a Tibet which is now almost completely destroyed. And it is a beautiful culture, where almost every detail is related with spiritual value, the very values that our contemporary culture is in the verge of completely losing them, yet still so essential to human life. To see this film is, first and foremost, like a meditation.Dante Ferretti's design recreating faithfully the traditional costumes and building with a great reality, with Roger Deakins beautiful cinematography (which depth, nuances and richness of colors are so beautifully transferred on this DVD), as well as Philip Glass's music, make KUNDUN a visual poem. Also must be noted is Thelma Schoonmaker's complex editing which explores and reveals the complexity of the story and giving them a beautiful, almost musical rhythm. According to Mr. Scorsese, the climatic Sand-Mandhala montage sequence that cross-cut the Dalai Lama's exile to India and a religious ceremony was her idea, and it brings the film up to an incredible spiritual level. Yet, Scorsese does not show Tibet as an idyllic and idealized society. By using the young Dalai Lama's point of view as a narrative strategy throughout the film, by showing almost everything through his eyes, the film also glimpses at the complexity of the Tibetan society and its own problems; "I didn't know monks has guns" "Is there a prison in Potala" says the 12 years old Dalai Lama.Violence, or human pain to be more exact, is also present in this film. An amazing nightmare sequence shows the Dalai Lama in the midle of thousands of dead monks. A typical Scorsese image? Well, in fact, it is a faithful recreation of a dream that the Dalai Lama himself has told the filmmakers. In this sense, KUNDUN is also a documentary as much as it is a beautifully created dramatic piece. A particulary poignant moment is when the Dalai Lama gives audience to his people, an old woman starts saying something in Tibetan, as if she was posessed by her traumatic experience. This scene, according to Mr.Scorsese, actually happened as they started to shoot the scene. They put a photo of the real Dalai Lama, and the woman started to talk like that. All the filmmakers did was to film her, and leave it as it is in the film, without even a translation. We can't tell what she says, but we understand the deep sorrow, the truth of her emotion. This is indeed one of the most emotional scene Scorsese, the ultimate filmmaker of emotiin, has ever presented us.As different as it may seems on the surface level, KUNDUN also explores the familiar Scorsese themes, of the dilemma between religious spiritual values of human trying to be good, and the harsh reality of the world they live in and their own human vulnerabilities inside them; a conflict that has been always present in his films since WHO'S THAT KNOCKING ON MY DOOR and MEAN STREETS, the dilemma that drove Travis Bickle to a burst of bloody violence, the demon inside that Jake La Motta had to fight, the conflict of divinity versus humanity in Jesus.But KUNDUN takes a different direction. Instead of being obsessed with his own dilemma that drives him near self-destruction (as did so many Scorsese heroes), the Dalai Lama goes beyond that to become the human incarnation of not divinity, but of ultimate compassion. It is amazing how, after witnessing so much violence and anger, he could reach such a state of peace in mind. Most of the people in the film are non-actors; real Tibetans (the Dalai Lama's mother is played by one of his own niece), and though their performance are not as dramatic as De Niro, Keitel, Pesci, Dafoe, Day Lewis and Pfeifer et all, they bring a truthfulness to the screen. Mr.Scorsese told me in an interview last year "It was almost like a prayer to make this movie. And my life has changed, to certain extent". I believe this film has the same effects, to certain extent, to us viewers as well.The film also carries an important political-- Mr.Scorsese says he prefer the word "human"-- message: "Non-violence is the only revolutionary idea left to us", says Martin Scorsese."
Underrated... (but thats changing)
Kgar | SF, CA | 08/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm really happy to see so many positive reviews for this movie. Martin Scorsese. Phillip Glass. The Dali Lama. How can you go wrong? I remember watching this the first time and liking it, but feeling that it lacked cohesion. It does take awhile for the Kundun to mature to an adult so we can identify with him and care about him.

But now I look at the film as being almost two separate parts. The first half shows us the Dali Lama as a child who must take on the role of Kundun and gives us a very slow (and beautiful) sense of environment and atmosphere. It also quietly sets up characters that will grow in importance as the film continues. The second "adult half" of the movie focuses on the Kundun having to deal with an aggressive communist China closing in on him and his people.

I feel like many people (including Ebert who said this is the only Scorsese movie he would not want to see again...) watch it once and say it was slow and they didn't care about the Dali Lama character enough. Well if you only watch it once you won't be able to see the detail (like the shot of the Kundun looking at Mao's shoes, or the baby Kundun separating the fighting beetles) , and depth that make up the fabric of this movie. There are all kinds of great shots and quick edits (the 3 seconds of violence in this film are more powerful then the lengthened violence in other films), and symbolism that you simply can't get your mind around the first time you watch this movie. Having said all of that, the cinematography alone would make this movie worth getting. And at $10, you make out like a bandit."
Interesting, off beat Scorsese film
Matthew Horner | USA | 03/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The majority of director Martin Scorsese's best liked movies have been about criminals or about people full of anger and potential violence. These include "Casino", "Goodfellas", "The Color of Money", "Taxi Driver", "Mean Streets" and his masterwork, "Raging Bull". He also made the brilliant, turn of the century romance, "The Age of Innocence"."Kundun" is his second attempt to tackle a spiritual subject. The first was "The Last Temptation of Christ", arguable the most controversial movie ever made about Christianity. It was so provocative, at least in theory, that it was never shown in many cities and towns. Covering the life of the last Dalai Lama of Tibet from childhood to his exile, "Kundun" created a controversy of a different sort. It was deemed politically incorrect. Several decades ago, Tibet, which for a thousand years had been independent and peaceful, was taken over by the Communist Chinese. They slaughtered many civilians, as well as Buddhist priests and nuns, claiming they were simply taking over a distant part of China. The survivors were 'reeducated.' Today, Tibet exists only as a mythical, fabled land , which was ruled by the Dalai Lama, its spiritual leader. The people believed that this man was reincarnated over and over again. Whether you believe that or not, the important thing is that Tibetans believed that all problems could be solved by peaceful means. Because China, as well as the rest of the world, are so much changed these days, the making of this movie was deemed by them to be insulting. In truth, "Kundun" dwells on the end of grand traditions more than it does on the moral values of the invaders. So, I suppose the controversy arose because, while China has changed drastically, it has no intention of letting go of Tibet. It is an unusual motion picture, taken down a notch or two for a reason I will get to in a minute. You will note that I have listed no cast credits. The posters for the film didn't either. This is because Scorsese, attempting to be as faithful as possible to the story, cast mainly actors of Tibetan heritage. These people came from two acting groups, one in New York, the other in India. The main character is well played by Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong. Since all of the names of the performers are equally exotic, they would be meaningless in selling the film to the public.Philip Glass, a renowned composer of modern classical music, wrote a film score that fits exactly what the stunning visuals show.From the standpoints of photography, music, and set and costume design, the film is a work of art. Unfortunately, Scorsese, like many other famous directors, took on a story which he appears not to have known how to approach. Steven Spielberg had the same problem with "Amistad", only to turn around and unleash the astounding "Saving Private Ryan" on an unsuspecting public.In "Kundun", I felt that all its beauty could not overcome Scorsese's inability to bring real emotional power to subject matter that demanded him to do so. This makes it rather like an elegant coffee table book. That's the heavy, oversized kind of book filled with stunning photos and art. People rarely read the text in such a volume. With this movie, it is difficult to tell whether the its artistic merits overwhelmed the story or whether the story would have come off even less involving without the lavish trappings."
How to Judge?
Loren Amsden | New York, NY United States | 02/09/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Having read the previous 49 reviews, what can I add? There are maybe three ways to review a film: on craft (how the film medium is used), on content (is this story worth telling?), and for a "true story" film, is it true? If you are a student of film (officially or not) and know something about Scorsese, you MUST see this film. Very, very few films since the invention of "talkies" have used the medium as brilliantly. Mathison's script, Glass' music, Deakins' cinematography, the incredible amateur acting: On the craft score, this is Scorsese's greatest work. The story of a young boy raised to be the spiritual - and forced to be the political - leader of his country may not attract everyone. There's nothing for it: that is the storyline of one of the greatest films ever made. As for "true stories," one reviewer compared Scorsese to David Lean, who made "Lawrence of Arabia." As a lifelong student of history and cinema, I can say that all "true stories" must compress events and characters, must make one incident or one dialog stand for many, and that all must be colored by the historical viewpoint of their tellers. Both David Lean and Martin Scorsese have clearly tried to capture their subjects sincerely and represent "truth" with all their skill and within the limits of their medium. Scorsese has let the Tibetans tell this story through him. Buddhists can usually be counted on for greater than average objectivity. From everything I have read and all I have talked to about Lawrence and about Tibet, Scorcese has done a far better job of representing history than Lean. If you have any interest in film or Tibet, see this in widescreen. It will almost certainly be the best film about the Dalai Lama ever to be made."