Beijing Bicycle: C-
I know this came out a while ago but it just came around here so...
thesis has something to do with the integration and importance of bicycles in the life of modern Chinese. If one was to float down into the middle of a bustling Chinese metropolis and randomly pick a bicycle and its rider chance is there would be a story behind them similar to the one in Beijing Bicycle
. Focus on a bicycle and the world opens up around you, allegorical relationships about love, life, class, the government, age and poverty all spring up naturally as one rides around the city. Doubtfully original, the thesis of the film is still intensely interesting but the only problem is the film makes its statement, and then goes on to prove it all within the first twenty minutes of the movie. All that follows is simply redundant.
Two intersecting stories make up Beijing Bicycle
, Guo Liangui (Lin Cui) a country boy who arrives in Beijing and gets a job as a bicycle courier, and Jian (Bin Li) a high school student too poor to afford a bike. Various plot points come and go: Guo gets his bike stolen and thinks Jian stole it, Jian is involved in a minor high school romance that fades when it becomes clear that he might have actually stolen the bike, Guo struggles to keep his courier job without a bike and so on.
The possibilities of two poor teenagers in a big city struggling to keep a bike and all that entails are endless; their escapades could easily be made into a 3 hour epic on situational misunderstandings and social commentary. After the first couple problems that arise for both boys it becomes quite clear how integrated the bicycle is into their lives-it is more important to Jian than his friends and his girl-indeed it might even represent his growth to manhood (and the violence that might imply), and for Guo the bicycle is his life, his livelihood and the only way a stubborn country boy can make money in the city. Without a bike both boys are lost and don’t know what to do and director Xiaoshuai Wang floods the screen with dozens, hundreds of bikes and it is obvious that Guo and Jian are not alone in their struggle to maintain an equilibrium between their lives and their dependence on their bicycles.
Mild is the best word to describe Beijing Bicycle
, one of those films that secretly strives to be all encompassing by being totally low-key and unconfrontational. Social class issues are quietly brought up and quietly forgotten, romance flares up and disappears and the film slowly gives off the impression that Mr. Xiaoshuai is attempting to make a film that is C
hina, that weaves in and out of the lives of everymen and everywomen of the country. But this is understood much too quickly in the film and soon every action seems like an exercise in repetition, Beijing Bicycle
could easily have been a short film showcasing the lives affected based on and affected by the bicylce, but the film just keeps going and going, and it keeps the characters and their actions simple to an almost allegorical level which does not help maintain interest in either the plot or Guo and Jian.
So the film just sort of floats on, never achieving full interest, never reaching a profound level and never making any observations in the last hour of the film that it did not make in the first hour. It is a quiet movie, one that seems simple and if it did not exude the air that it was trying to make a grand statement behind its simple means Beijing Bicycle
could probably have been an entertaining and mildly educational film on the role of the bicycle. Instead of waving in-between characters seem to exist solely for the point they are trying to make as characters and the role of the bicycle in modern life director Xiaoshuai Wang should have focused on one or the other. Clearly splitting the film’s focus between the bicycle and the characters does not allow either element of the film to develop past pointing out how important the bicycle is to life. Too bad this is assumed by just reading the title of the film.