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In a village of fishermen in Japan, Takata misses his son Kenichi, to whom he has been estranged for many years. When his daughter-in-law Rie tells him that Kenichi is sick in the hospital, she suggests Takata to come to Tokyo to visit his son in the hospital where he would have the chance to retie the relationship. However, Kenichi refuses to receive his father in his room, and Rie gives a videotape to Takata to know about the work of his son. Once at home, Takata sees a documentary in the remote village Lijiang, in the province of Younnan, about the passion of Kenichi, the Chinese opera, where the lead singer Li Jiamin promises to sing an important folk opera on the next year. When Rie calls Takata to tell that her husband has a terminal liver cancer, Takata decides to travel to Lijiang to shoot Li Jiamin singing the opera to give to Kenichi. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In the village scene Mr. Takata has to move to the highest location to make a phone call. In the following scene however he can receive phone calls while at a banquet in the lower part of the village. See more »
Good films depict feelings truthfully; with great works of art, you experience emotions deep within yourself. Zhang Yimou's "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" is not only a three-hankie movie, it may leave you with a sense of being changed, of being connected to others in new ways. It is that powerful, that important a work.
"Only connect" - E.M. Forster's imperative for creating ties - is at the heart of Zhang's new film, but with a twist. Takata, the central character, is an elderly Japanese, seemingly unconnected to anyone, a man with a frozen face and heart, long estranged from his only son, who has now fallen gravely ill. Ken Takakura, one of the most majestic actors alive (an ideal - perhaps the only - Lear around), is Takata, his uncommunicative, stony presence compelling attention and generating a mix of apprehension and pity.
Takata's journey to China's Yunnan province to complete his son's filming of the legendary song "Qian li zou dan qi," that gave the film its title, is full of twists and turns. Zhang tells the story with honesty, integrity, and Parsifal's "wisdom through compassion." In a brilliant stroke, Zhang opens and closes the film with the same scene - Takata, motionless, gazing over the confluence of gray sea and sky - but he, along with the audience, is in a completely different place, the unchanged exterior masking a person richly transformed by daring, risk-taking humanity.
Zhang, a master of producing a variety of genres and styles, put everything into this work (except the wushu grandeur of "Hero" and the upcoming "Curse of the Golden Flower") - the broad sweep of "Raise the Red Lantern," the chamber music of "The Road Home," the joyful melodrama of "Happy Times," and a dozen other works.
"Riding Alone" is adventure, psychological drama, a "quest film," unveiling spectacular vistas and the deep divisions/underlying connections between individuals and civilizations. And yet, through all this, "Riding Alone" is all of one piece, a grand novel in tightly connected (but ever-surprising) chapters, a 19th century literary saga in a 21st century setting.
If the film were presented in a series of silent close-ups of Takakura, it would be glorious enough, but the bonus is an army of non-professional actors, in addition to the magnificent Shinobu Terajima as Takata's daughter-in-law; Qiu Lin as Lingo, the would-be interpreter; Jiang Wen as Jasmine, the accomplished translator; Yang Zhenbo as Yang Yang, an amazing child star in a pivotal role; and Chinese-opera star Li Jiamin as himself.
If you're looking for a detailed story line, you will not find it here. Why would you deny yourself the pleasure of being taken along on a superb, heartwarming ride of surprise and discovery?
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