Japanese screen icon Ken Takakura’s 205th film — his 20th with director Yasuo Furuhata — casts him as Eiji, a taciturn prison instructor who undertakes a thousand-mile pilgrimage in an RV to honor a posthumous request from his wife (Yuko Tanaka), and scatter her ashes in the sea. During Eiji’s mournful trip, fortuitous encounters with an assortment of colorful, lonely characters alternate with flashbacks to happier times with his spouse; Takakura’s lugubrious mug, barely cracking a smile, effectively signals his deep affection. The actor’s popularity assures healthy B.O. returns at home, but further travel appears limited.With Takakura’s presence enough to insure cameos by some of Japan’s foremost actors, famous faces pop up to break the tedium of the long journey (perhaps the most familiar to American auds, “Beat” Kitano as a thief masquerading as a sensitive literature professor who claims also to be grieving a dead wife, and offers solace and poetry to the bemused protag). Eiji, at loose ends, has resigned his prison post, and gets involved with almost everyone he meets, cleaning squid with food salesmen and riding out a typhoon with fisherfolk.
A Toho Co. release of a Toho Co. production. (International sales: Toho Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Toshimi Kokubo, Mitsuharu Maeda, Junichi Shindo. Executive producer, Minami Ichikawa. Directed by Yasuo Furuhata. Screenplay, Takeshi Aoshima.
Camera (color) Junichiro Hayashi; editor, Junichi Kikuchi; music, Yusuke Hayashi. Reviewed at the Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Sept. 2, 2012. Running time: 110 MIN.
Ken Takakura, Yuko Tanaka, Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Koichi Sato, Haruka Ayase, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Mieko Harada, Kimiko Yo.