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|Index||70 reviews in total|
I certainly disagree with the commentary that calls this movie plotless. I agree that it's slow, but what's wrong with slow? Roger Ebert put the movie down by calling it 'Buddhist Sunday School.' True, the Buddha parts are simplistic, but then so is the original Buddha story. Slow, thoughtful, peaceful, subtly stimulating, and with a plot to end all plots-- the one-ness of all individuality. I much prefer this to the more recent Kundun, which tries to tell essentially the same story. In fact, Scorsese rips this movie off dreadfully, even to the same wiping out of the sand pattern at the end.
Bertolucci is a director who doesn't keep making the same movie.
Little Buddha has much about it that can be praised. It shows much, tells some, and demands of the viewer some thought. This is not something always appreciated by the viewer. The key to understanding this movie, I believe, is not the search for the reincarnation of an important Buddhist teacher, nor is it the life of the Buddha up to the time he achieves enlightenment, but the way a child, or children, and an old man, come to understand together something of the connections that may exist between themselves. We don't see through a character's eyes, we watch the effects of the characters on each other. In particular, Jesse, the 9 year old American who may or may not be the reincarnation, holds our attention because we watch him absorb the lessons that are being taught, and as he learns them, he grows in ways we can expect a 9 year old to grow. We also watch his father, whose character becomes more sympathetic as the movie progresses, who has even further to grow than his son, because he has already learned too much.
The movie is also beautiful to watch. The cinematography, the editing and the direction combine to provide just the right dramatic tension to a movie whose pacing is deceptive, in that it seems slow, but is not. The ultimate result is that a viewer who allows it, will find him or herself transported for a little while, to unexpected places.
This film is a perfect introduction to Buddhism for anyone with his child's eye still intact. This being said, the film has several levels and will reward study. The mythic level has been criticised for its lack of sophistication, but mostly by those who have no knowledge of Indian visual art. Where the film really succeeds is showing the nature of impermanence. Westerners, for the most part, frightened of such a concept shy away from the film for this very reason.
This was a very enjoyable movie. If for nothing else, it is worth watching for the beautiful scenes. I was fascinated watching Keanu as Siddhartha. He really seemed to lose himself in the role. I would really recommend this movie when you are in the mood for something gentle, beautiful to look at and at the same time, providing an interesting insight into the Buddhist world.
If you suspend your need for believable characters, this film does have
moments that take you to another world where good and evil are at odds and
how one man, Prince Siddharta (Keanu Reeves), deals with the inner demons
that reside within us all.
The scenes in which you learn about the life of Prince Siddharta are beautifully done. We get a Buddhist primer of sorts, and learn about the trials that Prince Siddharta had to go through on his quest for enlightenment.
As for the rest of the movie, well, it just dragged in a lot of places and the characters just were not all that believable.
If you know little or nothing about Tibetan Buddhism and would like to get a sense of it without getting into heavy dogma and spiritual practice, this movie is a nice intro.
Outstanding for its cinematography. Bertolucci makes a clear distinction
between the coolly modern Seattle (by giving it a blue tint) and the older,
earthier India and Nepal (shot with an orange and red theme). Chris Isaak
turns in a subtle and tender performance as the conflicted Dean Conrad.
Ruocheng Ying's performance as Lama Norbu is superb. And Keanu Reeves looks beautifully serene as Prince Siddhartha and later the Buddha.
There can be no doubt that Bertolucci made a beautiful and very stylistic portrayal of Siddartha (yes, Keanu does and looks very well in this part). There can be doubt though if these mystical and captivating scenes that play in the ancient (not necessarily historical!) India and the Far Orient are succesfully intermingled with the present day search for a reincarnated soul. I have seen the film several times and I am still not sure. Would this film have been better if it had only focused on the life and times of Siddartha / Buddha? Or would this just have made the film look "easier"? Present and past, reality and legend, magical scenery and modern city life continuously interchange. Each time the film shifted from Siddartha's "world" to Seattle I felt a little sorry. I wanted more and more of these silent, magic world. Bertolucci keeps us awake by going the other way. The things Siddartha learned can be applied, by us, the viewers, in what happens next. Let's just say Bertolucci's choice for dialectic film making was the right one. Final remark: the video / DVD cover is absolutely ridiculous. Surely the film company also wanted to attract young female Keanu fans by portraying him in a slightly romantic, counteropposing posture to Bridget Fonda. The two never meet in the film at all!
This movie was actually not that bad in fact it had some good parts to
it. One major problem though was Keanu Reeves. They are also other
glaring and not so glaring problems with this movie.
The acting was adequate throughout except for of course Keanu Reeves. He was not the only one I was not happy with though. Bridget Fonda did not exactly show off anything special either. She was just there nothing great, nothing to horrible just there. Why does she continue to get roles? Is it her name? Her looks? Her acting ability? That is pretty easy its her name. The only thing does she does share with Henry Fonda, Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda is their name definitely not her acting ability.
Then of course there is Keanu Reeves. It is really hard to think of a worse casting move than the casting of Keanu Reeves as Buddha. For action roles or even comedy I do not mind him but for serious roles he is about as bad as you could get. His performance at the beginning I do not have a problem with because Buddha is not yet Buddha he is even less than a narrow minded person. At or towards the end though he is supposed to portray Buddha with depth and meaning, not with superficiality and narrow mindedness. That though is exactly what he does though, he stays an idiot from start to finish. As the movie progresses so does the character of Buddha but not the performance of Keanu. In here he appeared about as selfish and superficial as Buddha was selfless and deep.
The directing should be great, after all Bernardo Bertolucci is directing this. Well at times it was spectacular but it was not consistent. Some of the scenes, especially toward the end were great, the sceneries of the Buddhist temples and ceremonies and one particular conversation involving a monk were amazing. It was like watching the Last Emperor again. Then the scenes with Buddha were just horrible and annoying. That part of the story did not seem to get anywhere, they just seemed to go on and on. That is what should have succeeded not failed especially Bertolucci being the director. That is where Bertolucci failed and failed miserably.
The cinematography was amazing at times as mentioned before. Certain scenes were done very stylistically and well. It did provide some sort of educational importance which is the one thing I was really with this movie. The editing was also pretty bad, it was one of the reasons why some of those scenes felt like forever to get by and why whenever the story was just becoming engaging it had to jump right back to the story of Buddha. The writing was pretty bad but not completely horrible.. The one scene with the monk was great in terms of writing but other than that nothing really memorable. The way the Buddha story was written really made me determine this was a bad script and brought down most of the movie.
This movie should have and could have done better but it did not. Cinematographically wise and directing wise some scenes were down right spectacular and other with Keanu Reeves were just down right horrible. Yet the cinematography was just too amazing even in the story of Buddha that I have to say that this an above average movie. It is a good family movie and a little educational but if you want to watch this alone I would not really recommend it. Very easy on the eyes but just a little to easy on the mind.
Simplistic, and of more value to young people than serious adults, but a more "realistic" dramatization of the subject might be too subtle for many viewers. This is perhaps the only movie I know of that deals directly with Buddhism from a western point of view, as opposed to Asian movies like those of Kurosawa, or such recent films as "Seven Years in Tibet" which deal more with the political and social aspects of Tibetan culture rather than Buddhism itself. Because Buddhism is drawing increasing interest in the West, a dramatization of the classic story of the Buddha is useful and entertaining. As a high school teacher, I have seriously recommended this film to students a number of times. The movie is well filmed, and, besides the traditional story of the Buddha,in its ancient Indian setting and with all of the mythical elements, it does gives insight into Tibetan culture, and can be linked to "Kundun" and "Seven Years in Tibet" which are excellent, sympathetic films about this Asian country that has received so much undeserved harassment.
The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking and alone worth the price of admission. On the other hand, trying to integrate the past with the present didn't work too well for me. The story of Siddharta needed to be expanded on and made a film on its own merits. I for one, wanted to learn more about this figure, and yes, I thought Keanu Reeves was just fine. The present day story didn't do anything for me except for the wonderful character Lama Norbu, he was fabulous. I felt this was a person I actually would like to meet.
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