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Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

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Taciturn Japanese fisherman Takaka (Ken Takakura) has long been estranged from his adult son. Upon learning that his son is terminally ill and still refuses to see him, Takaka decides to complete his son's project, the recording on videotape of a mask-opera in a remote region of China. The journey is complicated by the language difficulties and bureaucracy, but also by Takaka's involvement with another estranged father and son, and his growing understanding of his failures as a parent. Much of the film is set amid the gorgeous and wild barrens of the Yunnan province, where in traditional fashion, Takaka must get lost in order to find his own truths. This gentle drama is spared from becoming maudlin by Zhang Yimou's understated direction and by actors who play their emotions close. The restraint is welcome, and doesn't make Zhang's film any less heartbreaking. In Japanese and Mandarin, with subtitles. (AH)

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