Reviewed at Leura screening room, Leura, Australia, May 26, 1994. (In Sydney Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.
Master Dharma … Derek Yee
Master Prajna Tara … Chen Sung-yung
With: Fan Siu-wong, Wu Ma, Austin Wei, Fan Mui-sung, Ko Hung, Brandy Yuen, Chow Yuen-mo, Silver Cheung, Garry Chan.
This intriguing companion piece to “Little Buddha,” shot mostly on location in mainland China, sets out to depict how Buddhism arrived in China from India. Handsomely produced Hong Kong indie pic did modest business ($ HK2 million) at home this spring and is unlikely to fare better elsewhere.
According to Brandy Yuen’s low-key epic, an Indian prince, Dharma (Derek Yee) , whose snaky brothers are plotting to assassinate him, sees a vision of his future self. He reacts by renouncing future rights to his father’s throne and becomes a wandering monk, who travels east into China spreading the word of Buddha to all who are willing to listen. He winds up meditating in a cave from which no one is able to remove him, passes his religious message onto a disciple , and lives until the venerable age of 150.
Yuen beefs up this meditative saga with bursts of martial arts action and explores his themes with a clarity that is sometimes absent from Bernardo Bertolucci’s far more lavish exploration of Buddhism. Yet the net result is strangely uncompelling, and Yuen’s direction is strictly functional.
Production credits are solid.