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Reviews & Ratings for
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles More at IMDbPro »Qian li zou dan qi (original title)

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49 out of 60 people found the following review useful:

Big thumb up

Author: Lianqing Li from Beijing, China
25 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Thankfully Zhang, Yimou is back to make another deeply moved and typical "Zhang's Style" movie and it is wise for him to stop producing further martial art films.

Ken Takakura is acting as Takada, a Japanese fishman whose son is diagnosed incurable disease but refuses to see him for the past unsolvable conflicts between them. Following the clue left on the video tape made by the son, Takada decides to travel thousands of miles from Japan to Li Jiang (Beautiful River) of Yun'nan Province in China, to complete his son's unfinished wish - to shoot a local drama played by local artist Li, Jianmin. After he arrived, a series of unexpected difficulties and events happened between him and local tour guide Qiu, Lin, love child Yangyang and opera actor Li, Jiamin among the other local residents, lead Takada to deeply think and comprehend the relationship between him and his son, and during this process his son finally forgive him from the past.

Audience can not only enjoy the familiar rural scene brought by Zhang, Yimou, but also the superb genuine performances brought by those actors who are just acting with their real names(and Zhang has done this before in previous movies) apart from Ken Takakura. The dialogues are superb, they can be amused, grieved, touched and thoughtful.

It is a rare movie that I can't wait to give my thumb up half-way before the end, and a must-see film can make you smile and giggle with the tears and weeps.

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40 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

A journey into the heart of China

Author: pb104-1 from United States
24 December 2005

A young Japanese film maker is in hospital in Tokyo. His estranged father tries to visit, but the son refuses to see him. So, as a gesture of reconciliation, the father decides to go to China to complete the filming of a Chinese opera, called "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," which the son was working on but unable to finish. But the master singer whom the son was most interested in filming is now in jail, so official permission must be granted. And then the singer has a breakdown because he wants to see his own young son who is way off in the country somewhere. So the Japanese father now has to travel distances to find the son of the singer. A strong and beautiful film as one would expect from master director Yinou Zhang, it is a tale of one man's journey both into the world and into himself. In a way, it's a road movie, but there's more than one kind of road involved. Unlike his more dramatic fantasies, this is a quiet and haunting story, filled with stunning images from the hidden heart of China. Highly recommended.

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34 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

The Ride of a Lifetime from Zhang Yimou

Author: janos451 from San Francisco
29 August 2006

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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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A Wonderful Journey to Understanding and Redemption

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
20 January 2008

In a village of fishermen in Japan, Takata (Ken Takakura) misses his son Kenichi, to whom he has been estranged for many years. When his daughter-in-law Rie (Shinobu Terajima) 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 (Jiamin Li) 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.

"Qian Li Zou Dan Qi" is a magnificent movie about fathers and sons in a wonderful journey to understanding and redemption that will certainly bring tears and smiles to the viewer. The screenplay perfectly discloses in an adequate pace the touching and heartbreaking story of a man that tries reconciliation with his son filming the opera in China and finally understands the feelings of his son. It is also a story about lost chances in life to be close to those we love since people usually forget that time is irreversible and life is unique. The cinematography is amazing, as usual in Yimou Zhang movies. Ken Takakura gives a top-notch performance supported by the excellent acting of a few professional actors and actresses and an amateurish cast. The music score is very peaceful and beautiful. I have just included this gem in the list of my favorite movies ever. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Um Longo Caminho" ("A Long Way")

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Getting Human

Author: fwomp from United States
16 February 2007

Getting into the human equation and away from acrobatic flying daggers, director Yimou Zhang spins solid gold in his latest film, RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES.

Set against the stunningly picturesque Yunnan Province in southwestern China, Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura) leaves his beloved Japanese fishing village to travel thousands of miles and finish video recording a famous Chinese folk opera for his dying son.

Mr. Takata and his son have become distant since the death of Mr. Takata's wife, not speaking to one another for years. When word comes to him that his son, Ken-ichi, is in the hospital, Mr. Takata races to the city only to be rebuffed by his son's bitterness. Mr. Takata never sees his Ken-ichi, but his son's wife, Rie (Shinobu Terajima), tells Mr. Takata an interesting story about his love of Chinese folk dancing. She hands him an unfinished tape of Ken-ichi's work and, after watching it, Mr. Takata decides to finish the recording. "Not being good with people," Mr. Takata immediately encounters problems when he enters China. But he learns quickly, and finds humility within himself in order to finish the tape.

Mr. Takata knew that his son wanted to film one particular opera (also called Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles) sung by one particular Chinese man named Li. But Li is in prison after stabbing a man. Getting permission to film Li performing the folk dance from the government higher-ups becomes one of Mr. Takata's earliest obstacles. Then, after gaining access, Mr. Li has a meltdown, thinking about his own distant son. Emotional beyond repair, Mr. Li is unable to dance for Mr. Takata. So Mr. Takata leaves to come back another day ...but an idea is sparked in his head.

Mr. Takata goes to "The Stone Village" to see if he can convince Mr. Li's five-year-old son to come back with him to the prison so that he can visit. What follows is one of the most emotionally impacting moments in Chinese film history. Unable to be close to his own son, Mr. Takata transfers much of his emotional heft onto young Yang Yang (Mr. Li's son), and audiences will no doubt spill plenty of tears as this happens.

The beauty of the surrounding countryside in the Yunnan Province is an awesome spectacle to behold; a backdrop that towers in all its majesty.

Ken Takakura deserves Oscar mention for his quiet yet powerful (and heartbreaking) role as the conflicted and determined Mr. Takata.

All of the other actors are not actors, though. They are ordinary people picked by the director for their appearances and mannerisms; excellently done by the way. There's little doubt most will know that none of them have acting experience unless DVD watchers click on the extra features.

A brilliantly done foreign film that proves director Yimou Zhang isn't just an action freak.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A father's love

Author: jotix100 from New York
1 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The poetic opening of "Riding Along for Thousand of Miles" shows a pensive Takata at the edge of the sea in a remote fishing village where he now lives. Having left his wife and child earlier in his life has estranged his relationship with his only son Kenichi, a film maker, who is now sick at a Tokyo hospital. When Riu, his daughter-in-law calls, he doesn't hesitate to go to his son's side. At the hospital, Kenichi doesn't want to see his father, who goes away hurt.

After Riu has given Takata a tape of his son's film on Chinese opera, which he loves, and was not able to finish, he suddenly decides to surprise Kenichi with a film where he will capture this opera for him. Little prepares the older Takata for what he will find. First, what appeared to be an easy task, becomes a project in which Takata was not counting on.

When Takata is told about his son's death, he becomes even more passionate in finishing the job for what he came to a remote spot in China, even when he has to fight the local bureaucracy and the red tape he finds is hindering him from what he came to get. Basically, this story is about the guilt Takata feels for abandoning his only son. When Takata learns that the main opera singer Li Jiamin is in prison and his small son Yang Yang is unhappy as he will be sent away, it makes him more resolute to finish the job.

Director Yimou Zhang shows why he is one of the best Chinese directors of his generation. Mr. Zhang takes us for a magical ride into a culture to meet its richness and the wonderful Chinese people, who are no different from Tanaka, or from us, for that matter. The brilliant photography by Zhao Xiaoding, showing splendid views of the mountains in Yunan province, are too beautiful for words.

The film was a tribute to that marvelous Japanese actor, Ken Takakura, one of the giants in that country's cinema. There is not a false move from Mr. Takakura throughout the film. He is worth the price of admission. Shinobu Terajima is seen briefly as Riu. Jiamin Li, Liu Qui, Jian Wen, and the cute Zhenbo Yang, who appears as Yang Yang, contribute to make the film the joy it is.

Yimou Zhang clearly demonstrates why he is one of the best.

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

A ride with Zhang Yimou

Author: lisan gek from Singapore
27 May 2006

It has been a long time since Zhang last pull an intimate angle on his film. It feels good to watch a simple story that filled our emotions right to the brim.

If i'm not wrong. this is the first time Zhang focus on MAN's emotion. His protagonist have always been females. (The 2 most famous actress from china - gongli and zhang ziyi is a result of his great foresight.) Zhang Yimou possess a good eye for casting. Both old man and little boy exudes certain stunning charisma that i find them look alike to each other. Both possess a ruggard face that reads hardship and strength. Ironically these man and boy of rock are hit by the softness of kinship. whatever it is, they stand tall in the face of sad history. watching the heart map of a solid MAN like takakura is one of the most touching thing for me. i was moved by the story.

it was so rare to watch the male characters to be dissect by Zhang. When that happens, they are much pale (quiet & reserved) in comparison to the other female characters in zhang's previous film. for me, that is novelty. kudos to zhang for reinventing himself!

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

a brand new oldie but goody?

Author: unrealloyalties from United States
3 September 2006

As a long-time Zhang Yimou fan, I was pleased to see his most recent work depart from the Hero/ House of Flying Daggers genre and return to what I see as "classic" Zhang Yimou-- deceivingly simple films about personal struggle and transformation which are marked by their tenacious sense of humanism, stunning cinematography, and subtle political and social undertones.

Qian Li Zhou Dan Qi is a story about a father's (Ken Takakura's) journey to mend his relationship with his estranged son (voiced by Kiichi Nakai). It is a journey that transpires on two levels: Takada's physical voyage from a minimalist Japanese fishing village to a vibrant region of Yunnan Province China spurs an emotional progression that thaws his benumbed emotions for his son. Kiichi Nakai's character is never seen on screen and remains an abstraction; the son-figure is instead incarnated by a young boy of a remote village, fathered illegitimately by the opera singer whom Takada seeks to film. By learning to embrace the young boy, his hidden paternal love is manifested, and Takada, ever the stoic Hemingway man, is vicariously able to come to terms with his relationship with his own son.

The most gripping part of this film is Ken Takakura's performance. The range and depth of the actor's emotions was just what Zhang Yimou endeavored to capture in this film, and indeed, Takakura's dignity and gravitas permeates every minute of it. The camera delineates his face with great diligence and grace in the style of Zhang Yimou's The Road Home (1999) and earlier Gong Li films. Paired with visual imagery of Japan's coast and Yunnan's mountains and terrain, the picture is, as usual, a credit to Zhang Yimou's distinctive talent as director and ex-cinematographer.

Much has been said about the politics of Zhang Yimou's films. Since Qian Li Zhou Dan Qi deals with the touchy issues of state censorship and the Chinese prison system and presents them in an ultimately favorable light, it may appear that this film serves as propaganda for the Chinese government, which was an objection raised about Not One Less (1999). But even as a viewer who prefers to focus on Zhang Yimou's artistry and artistic expression rather than his "hidden political agenda," it would be rash to ignore the subtly subversive, wry irony interspersed in this film. No candy coating is painted upon the stiff policies of the state, which forbid foreigners from observing the internal workings of the prison system. The image of prisoners marching and chanting a din of self-improvement, reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution era, is equally stark. But beyond the state is the individual, and in this film as in many of Zhang Yimou's others, it is the triumph of the individual outside of his context that rings true.

What I disliked about this film, however, is that it seems Zhang Yimou has a tried-and-true formula which works, and works well, but which makes Qian Li Zhou Dan Qi feel slightly recycled (this probably wouldn't present a problem to those unfamiliar with his other films). The theme of a persistent individual's journey past bureaucracy and dispassion was explored in The Story of Qiu Ju (1992) and Zhang Yimou's use of local non-actors was a repeat from Not One Less. Moreover, this film does not escape the slowly-simmering tragic element that, though beautiful, is characteristically Zhang Yimou. I tended to enjoy the more circuitous route to tragedy in Happy Times (2000). But bottom line: after the martial arts movies secured his international fame, Zhang Yimou has created a film reminiscent of his earlier work, truly representative of his talent & vision, and which will probably receive more widespread attention— deservedly so.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A Journey of the Heart: Reconciling Distances

Author: gradyharp from United States
20 February 2007

'Qian li zou dan qi' ('Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles') is a little miracle of a film by the gifted Chinese director Yimou Zhang, an artist highly respected for his films of passion and martial arts captured in richly symbolic fashion and spectacular color. But in this film the director joins in writing a story with Jingzhi Zou that is as intimate as his other films are operatic. It is a simple, touching story told in manner that maintains Zhang's visual artistry yet goes so far beyond the glorious color to probe universal questions.

Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura) lives by himself in a fishing village since the death of his wife. Apparently he was so devastated by her passing that he left his son Ken-ichi to grow up by himself, an act that Ken-ichi has never forgiven: the two men have had no contact in many years. Takata receives a telephone call from his daughter-in-law Rie (Shinobu Terajima) informing him that Ken-ichi is hospitalized with a grave illness and pleads with Takata to come visit his estranged son. Takata complies, but on arrival at the hospital his son refuses to see him. Rie shares a videotape Ken-ichi made about his obsession with Chinese folk opera, and when Takata plays the tape he sees that his son's burning desire to tape a performance by Chinese singer Li Jiamin (who plays himself) singing the greatest of his roles - an opera names 'Riding Alone for a Thousand Miles' - was thwarted by the singer's illness at the time, Takata decides to reconcile his paternal distance and travel to Yunnan Province of China to complete his son's tape and vision.

Upon arrival in China Takata discovers that the singer is in jail and he obtains the translator services of Lingo (Lin Qiu) and Jasmine (Jiang Wen) who ultimately help him to overcome the endless red tape to gain an audience with the singer in his jail. Though Li wants to sing his famous role of Takata to film for his son, Li requests that first he be able to see his illegitimate son Yang Yang (Zhenbo Yang) who has been adopted by a little village called Stone Flower. Takata, with the aid of his translators, visits Stone Flower and the people there greet Takata with warmth and give their consent to allow Yang Yang to accompany Takata to see the father he has never met. But on the road out of China Yang Yang strays and Takata and Yang Yang spend a night in the frightening depths of a canyon: they bond with complex shared needs until they are rescued the next morning. Though Yang Yang has developed a love for Takata he doesn't want to leave his village and Takata departs back to the prison alone to tell Li. At the prison Takata shares with Li and his fellow inmates photographs of Yang Yang: everyone is so moved that Li performs the opera for Takata's son on videotape as a gesture of love.

Takata has accomplished his mission of reconciliation with his own son, but Rie calls him to inform him that Ken-ichi has died but left a letter addressed to Takata that explains how deeply moved the son is that his father would make the journey to China, riding alone for thousands of miles out of love. The gesture is enough for Ken-ichi.

Zhang tells his story in both Mandarin and Japanese and the translations reflect the differences on the two countries but also represent bridges between the ancient and the modern, between cold interior calloused heart and the warmth of love. The filming and accompanying musical score are as always in Zhang's films beautiful beyond description. This is a film to cherish, one that is so understated in its approach to father-son relationships that it will touch chords of recognition in every viewer. Highly recommended. Grady Harp

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful film

Author: PenGuhWin
30 April 2006

Zhang Yimou's last two martial arts films had much to commend them, but, honestly, I'd trade ten such films for this. It was almost too much to hope for that the director would return to his earlier, humanist style of film-making that saw "The Road Home," "Not One Less" and "Happy Times" - but he has, and wonderfully so.

Ken Takakura, who has appeared in fine films such as "Poppoya" and "The Yellow Handkerchief," really shines here. It's his film all the way, and a wonderful tribute that Zhang chose to craft this film for him.

While the core of the film lies with the emotions of the characters, I should also point out that the cinematography here is splendid - there are shots that are as breathtaking as anything in "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers."

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