Part Buddhist history, a metaphor about the tragedy of Tibetans in exile, and a religious tour de force, Bernardo Bertolucci’s stunning follow-up to The Sheltering Sky sees two monks from Bhutan travel to Seattle to find a reincarnated Buddhist master. As Brigitte Fonda and Chris Isaak try to reconcile the fact that their son might be a spiritual leader, Bertolucci inserts an enchanting back story of the pampered young Buddha (Keanu Reeves) and his search for enlightenment in a world of suffering. A mesmerizing story that ranks alongside Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, the film echoes some of Bertolucci’s wide-screen exoticism on The Last Emperor, and accompanied by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s powerful score, works in beautifully mysterious ways.
Bernardo Bertolucci proved to be Italian cinema’s great prodigy, making his debut The Grim Reaper at the age of 22, and Before the Revolution at the age of 24; achievements comparable to Orson Welles directing Citizen Kane at the age of 25. He was born in Parma in 1940. He initially followed the footsteps of his father Attilio, a noted poet and critic. His poetry received prizes at competitions and a collection of his work was published while he was still a teenager. But his attention was already diverted to the cinema, especially after viewing Godard’s Breathless. His planned transition from poetry to cinema found an accomplice in fellow poet Pier Paolo Pasolini. A family friend, he regarded Bertolucci as a kindred spirit and tasked him as his assistant on his landmark debut, Accattone. The experience, described by Bertolucci as witnessing “the invention of the cinema” further ignited his own ambitions.
The Grim Reaper was based on a story by Pasolini but the resulting film displayed… read more
The legend sanitised, as in Scorsese’s Kundun: storybook history emulsified within American egocentrism and quixotic harmonies. As always, watch it for the lush textures and surfaces, trailing the Orient of The Last Emperor and The Sheltering Sky - or savour Bertolucci’s America, the blue-hued urbanity, which here makes for all the more greater worldly contrast against the red earth, and which altogether deems the fragrant exoticism palatable. Indeed: lesser Bertolucci still proves ambrosial.
Keanu truly looks like a retard in this one. What idiot in casting saw the connection between Siddhartha and Keanu Reeves? I mean, come on! Please! Someone explain this to me!
Scores big points for Sakamoto's melodic score, Storaro's lush cinematography and the radiant beauty of a young Keanu Reeves . A sympathetic, loving tribute to Buddhism. Makes for a great trio of films on the subject along with Scorsese's Kundun and Herzog's Wheel of Time