Takakura Ken as Takakta Gouichi
Riding Along for Thousands of Miles
Our next film review in our Takakura Ken special was going to be another film, but wonderfully arriving on the doorstep from our love-film subscription was the 2005 feature ''Riding Along for Thousands of Miles.
Now one of the great Chinese directors of the modern age is the very talented Zhang Yimou ( Hero,House of the Flying Daggers ) who after making House of the Flying Daggers was given the OK to direct any type of film he wanted . With a story already at hand Zhang Yimou saw the opportunity to work with one of his heroes , Takakura Ken.
Now this is the last but one film that Takakura Ken had starred in , and before this the last film he had starred in was Hotaru in 2001 for Japanese director Yasuo Furuhata who actually directs the Japanese segments of this very film.
Takakura Ken was seventy four years old when he made this feature ,but looking at the film you would never believe it.
Takakura plays Gouchi Takata a ageing fisherman who after the loss of his wife fell distant from his son Kenichi.
Having not seen his son in years he receives a call from his sons wife telling him that Kenichi is Ill and has been admitted to hospital.
Feeling this may be the only time he has to reconcile with his son Gouichi travels to Tokyo from his small town in the Akita region .
Upon arriving he is felt unwelcome by his sons unwillingness to see him. Gouichi leaves but is stopped by his sons wife Rie who hands Gouichi a tape of Kenichi's work for Japanese TV .
Kenichi is a specialist on Chinese and Asian folk culture. The tape shows Gouichi a programme that aired on TV where Kenichi filmed and interviewed Chinese operas and traddional dance in the Yunan province the previous year.
It also reveals a particular artist that says he should see him perform the opera Riding Along for Thousands of Miles , a opera based on the Legend of Lord Guan from the legendary Romance of the Three kingdoms .
Kenichi promises to return the following year to see the artist Li Jiamin perform the opera.
It's here that Gouichi decides he should go to China to film the Opera for his son as his son is ill.
The next you know Gouichi is in China and in the Yunan province to see the opera , Rie phones to tell Gouichi about Kenichi's health and the diagnosis which is not to good. But when he tells her he is in China to film Riding Along for Thousands of Miles Rie begs him to come home.
Determined to film the opera Gouichi refuses and gets about his task in hand.
Of course it's not all so easy Gouichi is a ageing Japanese man in the middle of China in one of the oldest districts which still do things the old way.
With only his guide and interpreter to help him you can see how isolated he must be.
The film is spoken in Chinese and Japanese and the actors literally translate for Gouichi .
The other amazing fact about the film is that Takakura Ken is the only professional actor in the film , all the other cast are amateur actors ,the local population and the actual two tour guides that speak Japanese in the film are actually tour guides for the area that speak Japanese.
This rawness to the film brings a touch of realistic feelings within the film. These are of course added to by the brilliant vistas and landscapes of the surrounding Yunan province where the film was shot.
Getting back to the story of the film , things get complicated for Gouichi when he finds out that Li Jiamin the opera star that Kenichi met the previous year had been arrested for a drunken offence and was serving three years in Jail.
Determined to film the opera with Li Jiamin ( who is actually Li Jiamin a local Opera player from the Yunan province) he convinces his guides to help him try and get permission to film Li Jiamin perform in the prison.
Of course being China there not to open about letting foreigners into their prisons with cameras , thinking that they will report on the treatment of the prisoners.
So after a heart felt plea to local officials Gouichi gets the go ahead, but on the day Li Jiaminis to perform he is so upset with his predicament that he can not perform .
He longs to be free and with his son who he has had no contact with .
Feeling that he shares some common feelings about his own son, Gouichi decides that he will venture out into the Yunan and locate Li's son and bring him back to the prison.
Takakaura Ken delivers a very dramatic performance while still retaining the image that made him famous , the journey ahead of him will open is mind to how people perceive each other and how the language barrier can be broken down between people as he witnesses hospitality from complete strangers who will give up there all even though they have not much to give.
There are number of stars in this film , we have our lead played by Takakura Ken but then the other stars are the people of the Yunan province that opened there doors to the film crews , they feature in the film as the very locals they are .
The other star of the film is Yang Zhenbo as Yang Yang the eight year old son of Li Jiamin, his introduction in the film cements a relationship between Gouichi and Yang Yang that Gouichi wished he had with his own son.
The other stars of the film is the Yunan Province which Zhang Yimou features with such beauty in the film. From the tight little streets of the small Stone Village to the open mountain areas that stretch for miles.
Zhang Yimou always delivers in what ever he films, his action pieces like Hero or Curse of the Golden Flower keep you on the edge of your seat, whilst still retaining the beauty of the era it is set in.
Much like his earlier works with Gong Li ( Red Sorghum , Raise the Red Lantern) Riding Along for Thousands of Miles is a dramatic film about people ,there lives ,hardships and hopes.
I won't kid anyone ,Riding Along for Thousands of Miles will leave you thinking , your feel sad and happy but in the end it seems it 's all about doing the right thing , to understand and experiencing different lives ,ideals and culture is the one thing that helps us all understand others better.
Zhang Yimou has made a wonderful film here , and the late Takakura Ken gives a a outstanding performance that will stay with you forever.
The edition reviewed was the region 2 DVD which also features a making of feature on the disc , it goes behind the scenes of the movie giving many insights to how this film came about and it's production.
It also has some very memorable moments with Takakura Ken with the cast and crew and shows how pleasant a person he really was, a legend of Japanese cinema who some how even with his Western films never really got the exposure in the West many film fans of Asian cinema had hoped.
As the last but one film he had starred in Riding Along for Thousands of Miles is a fitting tribute to one of Zhang Yimou's own heroes of cinema where Zhang finally got to work with his own Child hood hero.
Review Date – February 26th 2015
Behind the scenes pictures - Making of
Director Zhang Yimou ( top left) , with cast and crew (top right) With Takakura Ken and crew member ( bottom right)
|Directed by||Zhang Yimou |
|Produced by||Xiu Jian |
|Written by||Zou Jingzhi|
|Music by||Guo Wenjing|
|Cinematography||Zhao Xiaoding |
|Edited by||Cheng Long |
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics (United States)|
22 October 2005 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
22 December 2005 (China)
Source : Wikipedia