The tags project the film as ‘understated, sentimental’, enough to put off a viewer desiring a packed and robust narrative; but in the hands of a master, ‘sentimentality’ is stripped of its negative connotations and assumes a dimension that heightens his viewing experience. An aged Japanese fisherman, denied by his ailing filmmaker-son to meet him at the hospital in Tokyo undertakes a long journey into the hinterlands of China to shoot a folk opera, a pet project of his son which he had not been able to complete because of his terminal illness; the intention being to reconcile with him through this effort. Perhaps it needed a foreigner as a protagonist to explore a country’s cultural heritage and complexities which a local protagonist, familiar with the mores wouldn’t have been able to bring out. What transpires is a visually delightful film that explores relationships with subtlety and brevity that attains a sublime level that stays with you long after you have watched it.
RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES (2005, China) by Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou is streaming on Netflix.
Ranjan Das is a Mumbai based filmmaker and faculty.