I saw bits and parts of this film last night on TV and decided to check it out again on dvd. It is quite surprising that a movie about a boy losing his bicycle can be compelling. It is a harrowing account of innocence lost and honestly, it is a bit brutal. It is a tale of a young man and his lost bike.
Plot synopsis partially derived from back cover: Set in modern-day Beijing, this powerful and evocative drama depicts, in brilliant detail, the daily struggle that the millions of citizens of Beijing face day in and day out. When a young man, Guei, arrives in Beijing from a rural village he finds a job as a delivery boy. Discovering that must make 60 deliveries before he can pay for the loaned silver mountain bike which he needs for his work, he sets about to become the most efficient and diligent worker in his team. However, when he has almost finished paying his debt, his world is smashed by the discovery that the bike has been stolen. After a night spent running all over the city, he eventually spots a young man riding the bike. But when Jian, the new owner, claims to have bought the bicycle at a market, Guei enters into an often power struggle that will lead to violence and humiliation. In order to resolve his plight he must find the determination to fight for what is rightfully his.
The film is directed by Wang Xiaoshuai, he makes a realistic vision of what goes on in his native land. There are metaphors aplenty in this little film and some use of potent symbolisms here. The movie begins with a sweet "coming of age" drama that is symbolized by Guei's joy in riding a bike. After his bike gets stolen, the gloom and dark side of adulthood shows its face. Innocence is doomed; it becomes lost, while brutality, envy, and arrogance become more of a necessity or figurehead. This is all symbolized when Guei first takes his bike back. The bicycle I believe symbolizes Guei and Jian's soul (more of Guei's) or rather their transformation from optimistic innocence into their realization of the (sometimes) disappointing reality of life. Things are taken and things are stolen, while someone may just go further when someone embraces their desires without conscience.
The film's main premise is actually a bit darker than one might expect. It has the potential to totally depress its viewers. If you didn't get the symbols, one might think that the film is too simple because the film does focus on two young men do going back and forth stealing the bicycle back from each other. It may get a bit repetitive. However, the film's message is actually not that simple. It also portrays Guei a gutsy, resourceful young man and totally committed to his cause while Jian is more of a whining, overbearing brat who depends on others. Two human characteristics are represented.
Thankfully, even with its very significant shift in tone, the director manages to pull off some lighter moments with pretty girls Zhao Xun and Gao Yuanyuan. They give us a break in the testosterone laden violence that makes up most of the film by brightening up the proceedings.
Although a lot of people may think Jian's actions in the final act is illogical, but I think his irrationality is why it hits more at home. Who says teenagers are rational or logical? BEIJING BICYCLE'S unflinching and realistic climax is dead on. In reality, even nice guys like Guei end up taking the fall for the arrogant Jians of the world. Sadly, this is cold fact.
VIDEO/AUDIO: 1.85 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Clean and bright video transfer with good colors. The transfer isn't perfect, it has minor edge enhancements. 2.0 surround track in Mandarin is sufficient for this type of film.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Version of this review was posted in amazon.com September, 2007
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