Year: 2001
Studio: Fandango
Director: Nalin Pan
Writer: Nalin Pan
Cast: Shawn Ku, Christy Chung
Few movies are so textured, so sensual, and so rich in the sensory experience that's supposed to be the basis for all cinema, but which is instead usually managed with little more than assaultive special effects.

Samsara, spoken in a rapidly disappearing native Tibetan language, is so full of tone, mood and beauty you could watch it repeatedly for the experience as easily as you could for the story.

It also brings such sensuous beauty to the screen without resorting to just chicks with their tops off in various states of deferment to men and sexual acrobatics.

And the description 'sensuous beauty' doesn't just refer to the sex. Every frame is so tempered and emotional it's almost like making love in itself just watching.

In a strange and pleasant twist, I watched a copy with the subtitles off without realising it was even subtitled. I surmised it might have been made the way Mel Gibson kept saying he was going to make Passion of the Christ, in the native language of the time without subtitles.

The acting was so good in that film you could almost have followed it all without knowing what they were saying, such was the tone of the film and response of the actors. Samasara was similarly profound in its makeup, and it wasn't until the final scene where Pema (Chung) confronts Tashi (Ku) I even realised I should know what they were saying.

A young mountain boy joins a Buddhist monastery and life is going swimmingly for him on his quest for understanding, but it comes in the shape of beautiful village girl Pema as he understands that the drives and desires of his body are as much a part of his spirit as the search for truth in his mind.

After what must be the sweetest and most beautiful sex scene of the last decade with the wide-eyed innocence of Ku and the beautiful grace of Chung, they run away together to get married, enjoying the trials and tribulations of family life in their village before Tashi starts catching the eye of another lovely young village girl...

The film ends with a question mark but a very strong statement in the Buddhist tradition; this too will pass, and what was will be again, as Tashi finds himself looking up at the same impassive hawk flying over the desert that seemed to set him on his quest as a boy.

Gorgeous scenery, gorgeous people, a universal story and an idyllic geo-historical setting make it one of the standouts of cinema in general, let alone that of Asia.

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