Director: Zhang Yimou
Returning to the neorealist roots he embraced working with a large group of unknowns in Not One Less, Zhang Yimou employs the same technique for this beautifully simplistic tale about fathers and sons. The film’s sole star, the legendary Ken Takakura plays Japanese fisherman Gouichi Takada. Over the course of the piece, Takado undergoes a challenging journey to China to fulfill a wish of his dying opera-loving adult son, from whom he’s been estranged for years due to an unspecified rift. Traveling to a remote cinematically breathtaking Chinese province in order to film a masked folk-opera star’s performance of the title piece (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles), Takada is dismayed to discover that the actor for whom he’s looking has been jailed and has issues with his own young estranged son. The film’s simple premise is surprisingly gripping on film as the story continues and Takada must undergo daunting language and cultural barriers in regards to working with Chinese to Japanese translators, gaining permission to film in a prison and trying to locate the actor’s orphaned son, Yang Yang. The large cast of unknowns adds an authentic air to the film and the young boy playing the orphan will capture your heart. Nearly overlooked minor masterpiece of emotion and fatherhood in anticipation for Yimou’s epic cinematic reunion with former collaborator Gong Li, fans of the director or those who just appreciate the understated beauty and intimate storytelling of Asian cinema should be sure to track it down.