I was able to find common ground with John-5's comments re:[i]Kundun[/i], a film I admire that he finds somewhat disappointing, albeit based on a casual viewing. For starters, we agree on the futility of avoiding being subjective. It's best to become aware of one's biases and predilections. My favorite critics acknowledge and reveal theirs, resulting in a richer experience for the reader. In that spirit, I'll say that I find the content of this film-the plight of Tibetans, the life of the Dalai Lama, the dogma and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism-utterly fascinating and important. I understand your complaint about [i]Kundun[/i] being "let down by a strain of rosy sentimentality" in that the Tibetans are depicted in an exceedingly positive light, almost without blemish. The scenes involving Kundun as a child are beatific. The Chinese government officials are depicted here as evil imperialists. My opinion is that there is a lot of truth in this presentation. Tibetans after all have a history of non-violence dating back to the first millennium and sub-human atrocities committed by the Chinese communist government in the 1950s are well documented. I also agree that the film "relies heavily on picturesque images", but I don't find that objectionable. And your comment would seem to apply to a film we both admire:[i]The Color of Pomegranates[/i].
Watching [i]Kundun[/i] again, I enjoyed the interplay between image and music, both Phillip Glass' score and traditional local music. There are two particularly brilliant scenes. One involves cutting back and forth betweeen the despairing leader being told of Chinese atrocities("children are being forced to kill their parents, nuns and monks are made to fornicate in the streets" and snippets of the horror. The other is the long sequence towards the end showing Kundun's departure from Tibet and his voyage of exile to India.