Little Buddha

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Nine-year-old Jesse (Wiesendanger), son of Seattle teacher Fonda and architect Isaak is identified as a possible reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist lama. On a visit to their apartment, dying lama Norbu (the sympathetic Ying Ruocheng) gives Jesse a picture-book of the life of Siddhartha/Buddha and suggests a visit to his monastery. Facing bankruptcy, Jesse's father accepts, and on the subcontinent Jesse witnesses Siddhartha's cosmic battle to banish evil, the multi-form Lord Mara, and finds he is just one of three candidates from whom Norbu must choose. Bertolucci's epic is a disappointment. With its once-upon-a-time structure, it has the feeling of a beautiful but very expensive kids' movie, intercut with a '50s 'Scope sandal-saga. Reeves makes a pretty, exotic, bare-breasted icon as the damask-cloaked prince turned rasta-style ascetic. On a deeper level, the film seems not to be specifically about Buddha, but about resistance and acceptance, weirdly resolving itself into an confusing essay on the deification of children.

Release details

Duration: 140 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Screenwriter: Rudy Wurlitzer, Mark Peploe
Cast: Keanu Reeves
Ying Ruocheng
Alex Wiesendanger
Chris Isaak
Bridget Fonda
Raju Lal
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