Eye For Film >> Movies >> Beijing Bicycle (2001) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
There isn't a Mao suit in sight. And there are so many cars. China is changing, or rather its cinematic stereotypes are. At the beginning of Xiaoshuai Wang's delightful film, the director of an express delivery firm is lecturing his new batch of couriers, all country boys, wet behind the ears, about corporate image. It could be Chinatown in a thriving North American city.
Each of the new boys is given a brand new bike, which is paid off by working an 80-20 split, after which it belongs to the courier, whose wage ratio changes to 50-50. No one complains, proud to have the use of such smart machines and lucky to hold down a job.
The story concerns 17-year-old Guo, whose bicycle is stolen just at the moment when he has completed the payments after months of hard graft. He searches the city, until miraculously spotting it being used by schoolboy Jian, who says he bought it at the second-hand market.
The bicycle represents a valued possession, a means of earning a living, a status symbol, a way of impressing girls. Battles are fought over it, bitter arguments erupt, jealousies flare. Guo is stubborn. Jian is determined. Neither want to give in. Jian's friends suggest compromises, while the girl he admires looks elsewhere for a two-wheeled hero.
Despite the emotional heat and genuine passion expressed by the dispute, the boys are reluctant to behave like hooligans. They do, but not all the time. There are moments of rational understanding, with sentimentality held firmly in check.
The film has a sophisticated soundtrack and elegant photography. It contains a sweetness that never cloys. The pace is slow and, like a fable, simply told. You learn little of life in Beijing. On the whole, people are respectful of each other and the teenagers appear tongue-tied when in the presence of the opposite sex. There is an air of innocence, that already feels out of date.
The streets are alive with the sound of commerce.Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2002