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Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles

4.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

For the first time in years, aging fisherman Takata Gou-ichi boards a bullet train to Tokyo when he learns his estranged son is gravely ill. But at the hospital, his son refuses to see him. Daughter-in-law Rie urges Takata to watch a videotape of a documentary his son was filming in rural China. Moved by what he sees, Takata vows to complete his son's work. Though laden with obstacles, his odyssey into the heart of China and the kinship he develops with a fatherless boy and the villagers who care for him recaptures a sense of family he thought he had lost a long time ago.


Zhang Yimou's heartfelt feature about cultural displacement, grief, and reconciliation is a lovely and somewhat unexpected work from the director of Raise the Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers. Japanese actor Ken Takakura stars as Gou-ichi Takata, a laconic man who lives in a fishing village and is estranged from his son. When word reaches him that his son is ill with cancer, Takata travels to Tokyo but is turned away. Takata learns that his son has a passion for rural Chinese folk opera, and he flies to mainland China to locate Li Jiamin (playing himself), an opera star who happens to be in jail at the moment. Takata's story reminds Li of his own sad disconnection from his young son, and Takata sets out to restore their relationship as a prelude to helping his own with Li's help. Zhang himself is unusually operatic here, with intense emotions flying around, prettified visions of nature, and characters--including prison guards and peasants--who seem idealized, both as folklore and even old, Maoist notions of cooperation. Zhang's longtime admirers will appreciate and understand this change of pace from a filmmaker whose relationship with Chinese officials has often been strained over content. But film fans less familiar with his body of work will enjoy Riding Alone as well. --Tom Keogh

Stills from Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (click for larger image)

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Special Features

  • "The Making of Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" featurette

Product Details

  • Actors: Ken Takakura, Jiang Wen, Kiichi Nakai
  • Directors: Yimou Zhang
  • Producers: Xiu Jian, Bill Kong, Zhang Weiping
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese
  • Dubbed: Chinese, French, Portuguese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 6, 2007
  • Run Time: 218 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000KX0IPE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,720 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
There are a half dozen films that can change your life after one viewing. I felt this was such a masterpiece. A Japanese father who has learned to control his emotions discovers that his estranged son is dying of cancer. When he goes to the hospital room, the son won't let him stay. Yet the wife of the son is trying to reconcile father and son and lets it be known that the son adores classical Chinese opera.

Seeking a crack in which to connect emotionally with his son, the father then goes to China - where he does not speak the language - and seeks out a Chinese opera star so that he can film a production of "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles." Unfortunately, the opera star is now in jail, but that does not stop the father from trying to film the production in Chinese prison. The father's desperate struggle to do one last thing to connect with his son - a true act of love - transforms all who begin to come into contact with him...and in old age, the father learns the value of openness in emotions that had been so bottled up before.

Altogether, a wonderful film experience. Truly, I was shaken emotionally.
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Format: DVD
Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles is a brilliant portrayal of the love that a father has for his child. Zhang uses the character of Takata to fuel this portrayal. Takata has such a profound inability to communicate with his son that he uses his daughter-in-law as a de-facto "interpreter" between himself and his child. During these "interpretations", Takata discovers that his son had promised to film a Chinese opera singer playing his most famous role. As an attempt at reconciliation, Takata goes to China to finish this task for his son, who is dying of cancer. In going to China, Takata seems to face an insurmountable obstacle: a foreign country where a different language is spoken. However, in a clever twist, this obstacle actually turns out to be an advantage for Takata, because he is used to dealing in an environment where he is unable to converse with others. Takata uses the skills he's developed to compensate for his communication deficiencies in order to find the person his son wished to film. When that person displays some relationship challenges with his own son, Takata takes it on himself to establish a connection between the opera singer and his child. In doing so, Takata finally establishes a bridge between himself and his own son.

While the story itself is intriguing, it wouldn't work without amazing acting from all the cast (particularly Ken Takakura as Takata), stunning cinematography, and a lyrical script. All of these elements are present in Zhang's other films, like Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower. It's a clear measure of Zhang's talent that he is able to abandon the historic epic form of those other movies and instead utilize these elements to create an intimate, emotional portrait.
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Format: DVD
After a solid start with a remarkable series of films in the early 1990's, Zhang Yimou has lately become something like the Martin Scorsese of Chinese cinema. For every character-rich, personal film he makes--the kind of film that made him a household name--he now mounts two or three big, action-packed epics tailored for maximum commercial success. Happily, RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES, is of the former variety.

Ken Takakura is a quiet force of nature as he struggles to take unexpected and often inscrutable steps to atone for unnamed offenses against his estranged son, now dying of liver cancer. This leads him on a quixotic journey to remote parts of China. His character, Takata, attempts to videotape a masked performance that is missing from his son's cherished collection of Chinese folk operas. The plot, simplified, is this: "one thing leads to another . . . ." In other words, this is a road movie, purely but not ever simply.

It is a melancholy film, but one with moments of deep comic relief. Takata is left to the devices of a tour guide and "translator," Lingo, whose broken Japanese is so mixed up with his broken English as to make him virtually useless. When language barriers arise (as they constantly do), Takata must phone his original translator, Jasmine, who had to bow out when the quest ran into obstacles. At one point, Takata and Lingo find themselves in a remote village, where they have encountered an apparent impasse with the village elders. When Lingo is unable to translate the villagers' wishes to Takata, there is a hilarious parade of the entire party, up the steps of the terraced village to the highest rooftop--the only place in town where there is a cell phone signal.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Zhang Yimou once again shows us his background as a cinematographer. He uses muted colors for the scenes in Japan where the characters, except the son's wife (a very promising up-and-coming actress in Japan, full of emotive capabilities), have bottled up emotions. Then uses bright, saturated colors (infrequently overexposed) in China when the father is learning about showing emotions and showing emotion.

When traveling in China you hear about all of the freedom Mr. Zhang has to do whatever project nowadays as he is praised on CTV regularly, but it is still amazing that he was allowed to do so much in a prison.

Once again as in "Not One Less" he has shown that he gets to the heart of the story better without using an expensive cast of professional actors with big names. I think this saves him having to battle with professional actors about the acting craft that they "know so much about" and the roles come off the way he wants them to.

I think Mr. Takakura (a tried and true Japanese actor) did an excellent job as a foreigner in China and the film depicted realistically the difficulties of being a foreigner traveling in China. That is once again to the lattitude that Mr. Zhang is allowed currently and I want to thank him for his honesty because most Chinese do not recognize the difficulties of being a foreigner in China. Chinese people want to be good hosts but they also do not feel they should go beyond the status quo due to societal traditions.

It is Chinese tradition that there is heroic death and heroic recognition that moves others to become better. That is what has made their tradition of literature and film so rewarding in that one comes away with a feeling of improving one's self by completing the story and wanting to become better.
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