Kundun (1997)

imageMartin Scorsese directs Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, Gyurme Tethong and Tulku Jamyang Kunga Tenzin in this epic look at the Dalai Lama’s childhood in Tibet before Chinese aggression exiled him.

Difficult one this as Matin Scorsese has produced a hauntingly beautiful film and one with a unique and naturally compelling tale running through it… yet Kundun just does not gel into a satisfying experience. The bold use of colour is trademark Marty, the near constant telling from child’s point of view (or more accurately…  a very peaceful and gentle man’s shared but diplomatic remembrance of his childhood) often feels like mid career Spielberg. Perhaps this is why the film squanders its inherent power. By not wanting to offend or misrepresent its holy living source, the film lacks the forgivable embellishments of captivating storytelling to give it any hook. The stunt cast of non acting descendants do fine but, like the film itself, end up worthy and respectful rather than mature or interesting. You finish up feeling you have not really seen the truth, nor really even the legend, leaving very little to print. A rare occasion where you get the inkling that Michael Bay or Brett Ratner’s Young Dalai Lama Adventures might be a more practical use of your two hours over Scorsese politically neutered, beneficent life of a saint. Marty has just too much respect for the Dalai Lama    as a man alive to make Kundun work for the casual viewer.


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