Taken from IMDb
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.
Title: Qian li zou dan qi (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles)
Year Released: 2005
Directed By: Yimou Zhang
Country: Hong Kong, China, Japan
Language: Mandarin, Japanese
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Subtitles: English (External)
IMDB Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0437447/