Mountaintop scenery provides a pleasing backdrop for “Kora,” a transparent propaganda piece embedded within the story of a young man’s cycling trip from Taiwan to Tibet. This largely China-bankrolled adaptation of a Taiwanese novel exists largely to extol the virtues of the country that lies between its starting point and destination, and while the thin story more or less succeeds dramatically, it’s overshadowed by the extreme-travel brochure imagery and political agenda. Pic opened in China on Nov. 3 to flat B.O.Inexperienced cyclist Shu-hao (Chang Shu-hao) has decided to bike from Taiwan to Lhasa, Tibet, as a tribute to his elder brother, who died trying to do the same thing. With an invaluable assist from lenser Du Jie (“Crazy Stone”), helmer Du Jiayi nicely captures the breathtaking terrain, but the characters always remain mechanical. Li Xiao Chuan’s lively extended cameo as another cyclist radiates the kind of energy that genteel Taiwanese thesp Chang lacks as the main character. Score by Japanese composer Michiru Oshima is appropriately rousing. “Kora” is a Himalayan word, with sacred connotations, that means “to travel around.”
A Taihe Universal Film Investment Co., Millimetre Film Co., Tibet Tourism Co., Atom Cinema Co production in association with China Film Group. (International sales: Taihe Universal Film Investment, Beijing.) Produced by Qian Shimu, Tao Kun, Nina Han. Executive producer, Chen Kuofu. Directed by Du Jiayi. Screenplay, Chang Chi Alu, Cheng Hsiao-che, based on the book "Zhuan shan" by Xie Wanglin.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Du Jie; editor, Xiao Yang; music, Michiru Oshima; production designer, Wang Yi. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (competing), Oct. 27, 2011. Running time: 90 MIN.
Chang Shu-hao, Li Xiao Chuan, Li Tao (Mandarin, Tibetan dialogue)