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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Kundun [Blu-ray]


(Martin Scorsese, 1997)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Touchstone Pictures

Video: Studio Canal / Kino Lorber



Region: 'B' / 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:14:24.514 / 2:14:20.802

Disc Size: 43,304,239,998 bytes / 39,535,751,589 bytes

Feature Size: 37,489,195,008 bytes / 39,051,958,272 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.69 Mbps / 32.94 Mbps

Chapters: 33 / 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case (both)

Release date: May 10th, 2010 / October 28th, 2019


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1783 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1783 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 2120 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2120 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio French 1001 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1001 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio German 888 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 888 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Spanish 1120 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1120 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit)


DTS-HD Master Audio English 1856 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1856 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1555 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1555 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



French, German, Spanish, none

English, none



• Searching For Kundun (1:27:26 in 576i)

• Trailer (2:26 in 576i)

Video and Audio configuration tests


Blu-ray One:

Audio Commentary by Film Historian and Critic Peter Tonguette

Blu-ray 2:

Interview with Director Martin Scorsese (33: 46)
Interview with Composer Philip Glass (44: 51)
Interview with Screenwriter Melissa Matheson (38: 11)
IN SEARCH OF KUNDUN with Martin Scorsese Documentary (1:24:46)
Interview with IN SEARCH OF KUNDUN Director Michael Henry Wilson (54: 44)
Compassion in Exile - Documentary (57:29)
EPK Extras with Cast and Crew (40: 18)
Booklet Essay by Filmmaker Zadie Constantine
Theatrical Trailer (2:37)




1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Description: Martin Scorsese's magical mystery mandala on the life of the Dalai Lama is a visually exhilarating, spiritually ambitious... film that goes where Scorsese has never gone before.


Praised as one of the best films of the year, KUNDUN is a motion picture masterpiece directed by five-time Academy Award(R)-nominated director Martin Scorsese. It's the incredible true story of one of the world's most fascinating leaders -- Tibet's Dali Lama and his daring struggle to rule a nation at one of the most challenging times in its history. Powerfully told and set against a backdrop of world politics -- the film's release created an international uproar! Featuring a striking Oscar(R)-nominated score by renowned composer Philip Glass, this extraordinary motion picture has been greeted with both controversy and worldwide acclaim -- experience it for yourself!



The Film:

The thirteenth Dalai Lama passed away in 1933. In 1935, the Regent of Tibet had a vision to guide the search for the next incarnation of the spiritual leader of Tibet. In 1937, that incarnation was found in the person of a two-year-old child, Tenzin Gyatso.

Kundun (1997) is a portrait of the early life of the boy recognized as the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, from his discovery at the age of two by a Lama in the guise of a servant, through the invasion of Tibet by Communist China in 1950, to his flight to India and exile from his homeland in 1959 at the age of 24. The title of the film, which comes from the honorific title of the Dalai Lama, means The Presence, as in the presence of the Buddha.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

With this film, composed of dazzling, beautifully framed imagery, billowing waves of music and few words, Martin Scorsese has come the closest he ever has to making a work of pure cinema. The movie is a triumph for the cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has given it the look of an illuminated manuscript. As its imagery becomes more surreal and mystically abstract, Mr. Glass's ethereal electronic score, which suggests a Himalyan music of the spheres, gathers force and energy and the music and pictures achieve a sublime synergy.

Excerpt from Stephen Holden at the NY Times located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Kundun has a strong negative issue on Blu-ray out of Germany. It's quite odd. The frequency of edge-enhancement and DNR seem to have been applied with an extremely wide swath - unevenly throughout the film. These are represented by black-lined halos. Even looking at the below screen captures - characters can appear like, waxy, flat, cardboard cutouts. Aside from that - it looks quite impressive. The colors are rich and lustrous. Detail in close-ups is strong. In fact, if you can bypass the varying degrees to EE / DNR - you may be able to settle in for a rewarding viewing presentation. There is even a bit of grain and texture. This Blu-ray is notably imperfect and I'd love to see it without the digital manipulation. It's a shame to be distracted when you are watching such an interesting film.


The Kino is significantly improved and the film's lush colors (warmer skin tones - losing the orangey ones of the softer SC), Moroccan vistas and always impressive Roger Deakins' cinematography benefit immensely from this crisper, more detailed 1080P transfer. The grain can be a bit clunky (would love to see this in 4K UHD) but this is a vast improvement. What an incredibly looking film - finally with a bone-fide Blu-ray rendering. Great job Kino! 




Subtitle Sample - Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



More Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Captures













Audio :

When putting the disc in - you get to select a country and the English (choose 'Australia' as opposed to Germany, Spain or France) has a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 1783 kbps in the English language. There are also foreign language DUBs in HD and subtitle options. The Philip Glass score sounds pretty good but I felt it could have exported a more robust depth at times. It slightly under achieved. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Kino give the audio option of lossless DTS-HD Master tracks in either 5.1 surround and 2.0 channel (both 16-bit) in the original English language (with some Tibetan and Mandarin). It sounds excellent although may be lacking some depth if it had a more robust (24-bit) rendering. The score is by Philip Glass (Leviathan, Koyaanisqatsi, A Brief History of Time, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Home, The Illusionist) adds a cultural flaor and can have some majestic grandeur in the more impressive widescreen shots. Kino add optional English subtitles on their Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

Extras :

The 1.5 hour 'making of' documentary 'Searching For Kundun' is part of the disc supplements - presented in SD PAL. It is described as "The making of Martin Scorseses Oscar-nominated film Kundun was an historic event, the first feature film treatment of the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. Michael H. Wilson documented this emotion-filled encounter of Scorsese and his Italian and American team with the Tibetans who portrayed the key figures in the tumultuous recent history of Tibet. Featuring compelling interviews with Scorsese, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, screenwriter Melissa Mathison, and production designer Dante Ferreti." Aside from that is a trailer and some audio and video configuration tests.


I thoroughly enjoyed the audio commentary on the feature disc by film historian and critic Peter Tonguette (author of Orson Welles Remembered: Interviews With His Actors, Editors, Cinematographers And Magicians). He talks about Kundun as essentially a film about reincarnation - including the reincarnation of Martin Scorsese from violent urban sagas (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver etc.) and how it was positioned between two religious films from the director; 1988’s The Last Temptation of Christ and 2016’s Silence. He gives interesting comments about how Scorsese has lived several lives as a filmmaker, about Freddie Francis as cinematographer choice, but he was too old, and how the early scenes could evoke Citizen Kane with the protagonist being torn away from parents. It was fascinating. There is a second Blu-ray with older, but lengthy, interview with Director Martin Scorsese (for over 1/2 hour), composer Philip Glass (for 45-minutes) and with Screenwriter Melissa Matheson for 38-minutes. We also get the feature length IN SEARCH OF KUNDUN with Martin Scorsese 1998 documentary, plus a 55-minute interview with IN SEARCH OF KUNDUN director Michael Henry Wilson, the hour-long 1993 Compassion in Exile: The Life of the 14th Dalai Lama documentary by Mickey Lemle. There is the electronic press kit with cast and crew and a theatrical trailer. Kino include a liner notes booklet with an essay by Filmmaker Zadie Constantine.


Studio Canal - Region 'B' - Blu-ray



Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray 1



Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray 2



If you are not sensitive to the edge-enhancements - then this release of Kundun offers the film in a compelling package. The less-particular will find this Blu-ray a substantial leap beyond SD. My hope is to compare this to a region 'A' 1080P version one day soon. 


Well it took almost 8-years but I finally got my wish and, justly, this new Kino Blu-ray is a massive improvement, in every area, and the one to own. This should get some votes at our year-end poll. GREAT PACKAGE! What an impacting film. It has our highest recommendation!  

Gary Tooze

November 30th, 2011

October 26th, 2019



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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