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Reckoning

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BEIJING BICYCLE

SYNOPSIS:
Guei (Cui Lin) comes to Beijing from his village and finds a job as a bicycle courier – lowly paid, but with the prospect of owning his silver mountain bike if things go well. Within a day of owning it, the bike is stolen, and his job is in jeopardy. Determined to find it, he begins an impossible task, in a city where bicycles are the most popular form of transport. But his perseverance pays off – although it leads to a bitter battle with the young Jian (Li Bin), who claims to have paid for it. Jian also has bigger things at stake: a girl, Xiao (Gao Yuanyuan) who rides with him from school ….The confrontation with his family escalates into a war between Guei and Jian’s friends, culminating in a dramatic and unexpected finale.

Review by Louise Keller:
We all have our own unique memories of the humble bicycle that begin from our childhood. I remember each Sunday as a child, riding my bike up the very steep hilly road in the Belgian Congo to the golf club, where my sister and I would practice while my parents played 18 holes. For us it was a social, recreational activity: a fun outing enjoying the fresh air, feeling free as birds. But bicycles have different purposes and significance, reveals Wang Xiaoshuai in his delightful and unique tribute to the bicycle. More than an important mode of transportation, the bicycle is also a culturally significant symbol and a mark of progress. Intriguing and unusual, Beijing Bicycle is a gentle and insightful glimpse into life in China using the bicycle as its focus. The bicycle is the catalyst that brings two young men together. While each has a different need, they are both nevertheless equally important. And two outstanding new talents Li Bin as Jian and Cui Lin as Guei offer sensitive and complex performances. For Jian, the bicycle represents his dream, the symbol of success and the reward promised by his father throughout his childhood. We understand and empathise with Jian's frustration, his rejection and severe disappointment. Guei's need is more a matter of survival: the bicycle is the essential and required tool to fulfill his job. His desperation is apparent, his resolve unshakable. We embark on a beguiling journey with both of them; the dramatic curve ends in a satisfying climax. I especially like the look of the film – the camera peers through the spokes of wheels and follows them through Beijing's narrow, shadowy, back alleys. As they pass, we get a sense of the people and the life they are leading. This is showcased in simple ways and we observe a maid dressing up in her employer's clothes, locals drinking water from the fountain, cleaning teeth, playing games in the square, talking, running, waiting. We feel the hubbub of the city traffic and the repetition of daily routine and effective use of music (solo flute, piano and percussion) accentuates the mood. Gently surprising, Beijing Bicycle is an enjoyable and intimate portrait of Chinese life today.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A sparse script and an observing camera – coupled with a minimal score – make Beijing Bicycle seem spartan, but it builds up a fine head of emotional steam, nonetheless. It is both a cultural metaphor and character study, exploring the difference between need and want, in the context of a culture that is angularly different to Western culture, and yet on a human level remarkably similar. For me, this is the great gift of this film; unlike most other Chinese filmmakers, Wang Xiaoshuai reveals a universality of human responses behind the cultural divide that brings us directly to today. Carried by consummate performances from a young and excellent cast, Beijing Bicycle is resonant with the most powerful motivators of the human condition: the bicycle at the centre of the story is symbolic of intimate as well as universal desires, and also of a changing Chinese society. An icon of transport, freedom, even success of sorts (everything is relative) the bicycle is China’s Model A Ford. But the film is not restricted by this. The complexity of the subject is well concealed in a story of youthful concerns, but never obliterated. Much of the action takes place in the narrow, ancient village streets – now sidestreets of suburban Beijing - with faded old walls and faded old people. When we are finally brought out into the bustle of contemporary Beijing, the bicycle is suddenly an anachronism – and the signal for a society to move on . . . but where.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

INTERVIEW with Wang Xiaoshuai

TRAILER

BEIJING BICYCLE (M)
(China)

CAST: Cui Lin, Li Bin, Zhou Xun, Gao Yuanyuahn, Li Shung, Zhao Yiwel, Pang Yan, Zhou Fangfei, Xie Yan,

DIRECTOR: Wang Xiaoshuai

PRODUCER: Peggy Chiao, Hsu Hsiao-Ming, Hang Sangping

SCRIPT: Wang Xiaoshuai, Tang Danian, Peggy Chiao, Hsu Hsiao-Ming

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Liu Jie

EDITOR: Liao Ching-Song

MUSIC SUPERVISOR: Wang Feng

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tsai Chao-Yi, Cao Anjun

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 7, 2002







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