Writer: Melissa Mathison
Director: Martin Scorsese
Budget: 28 million (estimated)
Domestic Gross: $5 532 301
even great directors like martin scorsese make a bad movie sometimes (i personally wasn't a big fan of Gangs Of New York), however sometimes they just make a movie that doesn't do well - which as we know doesn't always reflect on the actual quality of the film (this is what filmed but not forgotten is all about people). Kundun is one such film. Kundun was released in 1997, the same year as the other dalai lama movie Seven Years In Tibet. Seven Years made more money, but Kundun was the much better film.
rather then telling the story through the eyes of a westerner, as 7 Years did with brad pitts character, Kundun tells the story of the 14th dalai lama through his eyes (what a crazy concept). It's obvious why 7 Years approached it the way they did - in order to have a big name star in the role and not alienate the general audience with all no-name tibetan actors - kind of like what they did with tom cruise in The Last Samurai.
Kundun begins in 1937 when a two year old tibetan baby is identified as the reincarnation of the dalai lama, the compassionate buddha. the story then follows the child's life as he grows up, is schooled as a monk, sees his country invaded by china, travels to meet chairman mao and in 1959 becomes ill and flees to india.
scorsese tells the story beautifully, taking us on this powerful journey with the dalai lama and making us feel his story directly - rather then indirectly through some other character - the one scene of many that still stands out in my head is one in which the dalai lama is having a vision of the slaughter of hundreds of monks and the camera just starts on one and slowly rises to reveal a huge area covered with slain monks. the cinematography by the great roger deakins is gorgeous - deakins is one of the best cinematographers of the last 20 years working on such films as O Brother Where Art Thou, The Man Who Wasn't There, A Beautiful Mind, Fargo and Jarhead (see what i mean).
the music must also be mentioned as must the composer of the score, philip glass. glass has composed operas, dance and theater pieces and scored many movies - the two that stand out in my mind without even thinking about it are Kundun and The Truman Show. the beautiful and evocative music fits the film perfectly.
scorsese is one of the great film makers of his generation, but when asked to name his great works, people usually remember Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino and now The Departed (just saw it last week and it is really good). however, i am here to remind you about one you might have skipped because it doesn't sound like a scorsese film, or forgotten about cause it left theaters pretty quickly and got jipped out of an oscar nomination. Kundun is one that deserves to be mentioned with the others in this master film makers oeuvre.