As a man who has not left his town in a number of years you know it has to be something serious when Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura – Mr. Baseball) boards the bullet train and goes to Tokyo to see his son in hospital. Ken-ichi (Kiichi Nakai – star of many Japanese films) refuses to speak to his father, despite the fact that he has terminal cancer because he and his father have not spoken for years. Rie Takata (Shinobu Terajima – star of several Japanese films), Kenichi's wife, begs Gou-ichi to watch a documentary that her husband was in the process of filming. The documentary takes place in rural China in the Yunnan province. After watching the film Gou-ichi decides that he is going to complete the filming for his son as a way of trying to get close to him again or at least to understand him. While in China doing the filming, Gou-ichi runs up against a few problems. He becomes close to a young boy who does not have a father and becomes close to the villagers where he is filming and it brings him to a greater understanding of his son and himself.
This is really a masterful movie from the director, Zhang Yimou (Curse of the Golden Flower, House of the Flying Dagger), and the lead actor. In regards to the director the way the story is told shows a deft touch and perfect pacing (might be too slow for some, but it is done in the perfect way for this story) and beautiful cinematography of rural China. With this film he takes you through a gamut of emotions from happiness, humour, tears, frustration, and feeling triumphant. Good art gives us access to true emotions and we feel as the art/characters do. We travel through parts of the world with the lead character and at the same time we get to 'know' him. This kind of feeling is only attainable through the skill of actor Ken Takakura who makes us care for this grumpy, set-in-his-ways older man. We feel pity and empathy for this stony faced character when we really shouldn't. We are puppets on Takakura's strings. You will go through the changes in the character with him. You believe what is happening onscreen. You cannot help but be involved. This is good filmmaking. It is a quiet story that will stay with you for quite a while after seeing it.
-The Making of Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
-Previews of The Italian, Driving Lessons, Curse of the Golden Flower, Who Killed the Electric Car?, Sketches of Frank Gehry, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Joyeux Noel, and House of Flying Daggers