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  • Ethan_Ford14 March 2009
    The theme of stubborn individualism has always run through Ichikawa's work and it was not surprising that he wished to film this true story of an ordinary twenty-three year old who crossed the Pacific in a small yacht,a feat which no Japanese had ever accomplished.The hero is played by Yujiro Ishihara,a hugely popular star in youth movies who is utterly convincing in the role.It is the accumulation of small details which make the film so compellingly realistic:the daunting planning and purchase of items from three sets of screwdrivers to a meticulously controlled diet of canned foods,beer and water. He is subjected to all the ordeals which lone sailors speak of,namely,above all,the loneliness of each day,the sleep deprivation,the unforeseen accidents,and above all the vagaries of the weather,his small vessel unceasingly lashed by unforgiving storms,even the presence of a shark which almost catches him off guard having a swim. Throughout the film we see flashbacks to his rather humdrum existence working for his father and then for a travel agency,his bickering relationship with his father,his rejection of his mother's endless pleas for him to stay at home.It seems as if the typically conformist pressures exerted by the Japanese family have in part driven him to find relief in the open seas. And when the end of the voyage comes,it is one of the most perfect and beautifully filmed climaxes in modern film history.
  • A film about a lonely figure piloting his one-man sailboat across the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean would seem to pose an insurmountable narrative logistical threat, but director Kon Ichikawa turns an unlikely true story into an unusual study of isolation and personal achievement. Ken-Ichi Horie was an obstinate amateur sailor obsessed with the challenge of a solo journey across the world's largest ocean, and in 1962 he fulfilled his ambitions (succeeding almost in spite of himself) in a 92-day passage that proved to be less an ordeal than a comic misadventure. Using a choppy visual style and a claustrophobic wide-screen camera, Ichikawa shows the intrepid traveler at the mercy of both the elements and his own inexperience, ending with his anticlimactic arrival in San Francisco, victorious but asleep on his feet. The alternate title of the film was 'My Enemy, the Sea', a misnomer since, for all its impassive antagonism, the ocean was Horie's only true friend, allowing him the freedom he never knew on land.
  • Not only a middle-of-the-road affair by Ichikawa's inconsistent standards, but a somewhat unsatisfying 'man in the wilderness' odyssey, ALONE ACROSS THE PACIFIC ought to have worked better than it does. I don't know if my disappointment was bigger because I'm a huge fan of survival films and, try as it might, it never quite becomes the foreboding, visceral experience it must have been for a man trapped in a boat for three months in the middle of the Pacific, certainly nowhere near the levels of unflinching grimness Ichikawa reached in FIRES ON THE PLAIN. Or if maybe it's disappointing because the tangible visceral quality is constantly undermined by a soporific voice-over narration and a flashback structure that has little insight to shed on the protagonist's character.

    Presumably the young man decides to rebel against the rigid burdens of Japanese postwar society and set sail on a journey across the Pacific. After a somewhat meandering second act focusing on his trials and tribulations inside the petty schoone, which is partly amusing (boiling rice with beer) and partly claustrophobic (conversing with himself in the dark bowels of the boat) but never quite intense, savage or harrowing enough, it becomes apparent that Ichikawa's chance to 'make' the movie will stand or fall with the protagonist's arrival in America.

    Once in San Francisco we are treated to guerilla shots of the Golden Gate Bridge taken from a boat, awkward closeups of American non-actors and very poor dubbing (a 60 year old man sounds like a 25 year old dude). From the way Ichikawa shoots the bustling roads of San Francisco (which echo the shots of the busy Osaka streets early in the movie), it seems to suggest a betrayal in the dream of a promised land, that booming America is in the end not that different from postwar Japan, but it's too little too late. Made in the same year as the superior (but stagey, stylized and intentionally artificial by comparison) ACTOR'S REVENGE, Alone Across the Pacific just doesn't have a lot to recommend it. Not a bad movie per se but not particularly gripping either. Ichikawa has done much better work.