Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

"Good"

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles Review


So, you're a director; a Chinese director, to be exact. You've just hit the peak of your career with a huge box office success (Hero) and a monster critical success (The House of Flying Daggers). In the Western eye, you are the man for martial arts films. So how do you follow this up? What great feat of imagery and ass-kicking could possibly follow this win? If you're Zhang Yimou, you don't try. You just go back to what you did before those: small art-house character pieces.

Gou-ichi (the great Ken Takakura) makes a modest living as a fisherman in Japan, and lives a very lonesome existence away from family. Ken-ichi (Kiichi Nakai), his son, especially, wants nothing to do with him due to some unnamed conflict. When he finds out his son has liver cancer, however, he rushes to his bedside but is denied by the son's constant grudge. Instead, he is met by Rie (Shinobu Terajima), his daughter-in-law, who gives him a tape of footage his son took of legendary opera star Li Jiamin (the Chinese opera performer plays himself). Sadly, Jiamin couldn't sing the son's favorite song, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles," but promised Ken-ichi he would perform it the next time he toured in front of the camera. Moved by the terminal state of his son, Gou-ichi sets himself on a journey to China to videotape the singer and possibly stitch up the rift between him and his son.

It's a sentimental journey, and that might be the film's most fatal point. While cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding (also of House of Flying Daggers) films both countries beautifully, there is something peculiarly hokey about the film's language and its overdone story of death and making amends. The moments that hit hardest are those where we are alone with Gou-ichi, especially the mystical, ambient opening shot of him on the banks of the river. Though he has always been known for treading into obvious, overwrought dialogue, Yimou burdens the film unendingly here with moments that should speak through image rather than bumbling sentimentality.

This is not to say that the actors overcome it for the most part. Takakura, a monument of acting in his native Japan, has garnered much respect for his reserved, coiled performances that garner similarities to Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. Here, he carries the film with little intervention from other actors. Most notable is Qiu Lin as Lingo, a guide of sorts in Li's village who attempts to help Gou-ichi when he arrives in China. Kiichi Nakai also makes good on the scant time he is given as Ken-ichi, but Terajima overdoes her role as the daughter-in-law and doesn't give the conversations between her and Gou-ichi enough sincerity and realism.

Riding Alone makes an interesting pause between his last two films and the upcoming Curse of the Golden Flower, but it doesn't bode well in the canon of Yimou, whose Raise the Red Lantern was a much more interesting and honest drama than this. Character studies about age and family can be enthralling and sometimes transcendental (check out the films of the late, great Yasujiro Ozu), but the film trades that for the well-tread territory that Hallmark built its name on.

The DVD includes a making-of featurette.

Aka Qian li zou dan qi.

You're never alone when there's kabuki theater around.



Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 22nd December 2005

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 15

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Ken Takakura as Gou-ichi Takata, Shinobu Terajima as Rie Takata, Kiichi Nakai as Ken-ichi Takata (voice), Ken Nakamoto as Electrician, Li Jia-Min as Li Jiamin, Jiang Wen as Jasmine, Lin Qiu as Lingo

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.