Thursday, December 07, 2006

Film Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Qian li zou dan qi; Yimou Zhang, 2005)

Tonight, my wife and I very much enjoyed seeing Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles at a Chapel Hill, NC theatre. It was a beautiful film of a Japanese man, Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura) sadly estranged from his son, Ken-ichi. The daughter-in-law, Rie Takata played by Shinobu Terajima, ever hoping to bring the family together, calls to tell the father about Ken-ichi's sudden hospitalization with liver cancer. Takata-san rushes back to Tokyo, but the son won't see him, even though he has made a long journey to the hospital from a remote fishing village.

Trying to reconcile a non-communicative relationship, the father visits rural China to attempt to complete the filming that the son had begun of a Chinese opera, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles". The film is the sometimes-funny, often poignant, and always scenic story of Takata-san's journey - a lead actor imprisoned, unable to perform as he weeps for his son whom he has never met; a Chinese guide who speaks only broken Japanese; villagers who roll out an amazingly long and warm welcome mat (literally covering what seems to be the main street with a linear banquet that goes as far as one can see) to introduce Takata-san to the actor's son; the actor's son who may not be ready to meet his unknown father; and Rie and her cell phone updates about Ken-ichi.

It's a beautiful film with just-enough sparse dialogue, spectacular mountain scenery, lovable and realistic characters, and a soul that speaks to family relations. You can visit both the film's website and its imdb entry for more information and images, including English language trailers.


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