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RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES

SYNOPSIS:
When Japanese fisherman Gouichi Takata (Ken Takakura) learns that his estranged son Kenichi (Kiichi Nakai) has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, he travels to Tokyo, wanting to reconcile. Kenichi absolutely refuses to see his father, citing the years of conflict between them. However, Takata's daughter-in-law Rie (Shinobu Terajima) gives him a videotape which may help. Kenichi has been making a film about Chinese opera, and his dream has been to see the singer Li Jiamin perform a legendary ballad. Takata decides to travel to southern China and capture a performance of this song, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," in hopes of understanding more about his son.

Review by Lesley Chow:
Ken Takakura has often been dubbed the Clint Eastwood of Japan. However, as Takata, a man who travels to China to fulfil the dreams of his dying son, he seems less stoic than blanked-out: a strange, furtive face with downcast eyes. Every time he speaks, the dialogue sounds a little clunky: Takata declares his intentions and feelings ahead of time, and from out of nowhere. But director Zhang Yimou seems fascinated by the remoteness of this character, and the way he relates to others.

From the moment Takata arrives in China, this virtually silent man is forced to maintain relationships with a variety of people: translators, tourist guides and villagers. The urgency of his mission contrasts with the matter-of-fact way these people carry out his wishes, as well as the use of technology. Personal messages are subject to back-and-forth faxes and translations; magnificent canyons and landscapes are clicked with a digital camera. Takata can't help being a little impersonal, and at first, his contact with the Chinese is unsatisfying. His translator Jasmine (Jiang Wen) is sympathetic, but reluctant to go beyond the bounds of her contract. The officials he meets turn out to be fairly reasonable, yet their main objective is to present an efficient, though rather glitzy image of China.

More and more people become drawn into Takata's journey as it progresses, and it's these chance encounters, rather than the heavy-handed theme of fathers and sons, which stand out. However, this movie is only slightly more intimate than Zhang's last two features - the martial arts epics Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The tear-jerking ending relies too much on a sobbing crowd of extras - overall this is a gentle, perceptive but not highly original film.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES (PG)
(Hong Kong/China/Japan, 2005)

Qian li zou dan qi

CAST: Ken Takakura, Kiichi Nakai, Shinobu Terajima, Jiang Wen

PRODUCER: Yimou Zhang

DIRECTOR: Yimou Zhang

SCRIPT: Yimou Zhang, Jingzhi Zou

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Zhao Xiaoding

EDITOR: Cheng Long

MUSIC: Guo Wenjing

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sun Li

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 1, 2006 (Melbourne)







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