(This was too long, imagine that, from me, to fit in the comments section) Needless to say, I disagree with phyrephox's assessment of Beijing Bicycle
which I found to be a very interesting portrait of the contemporary state of Beijing youth (the film is part of a six movie series called the Tales of the Three Cities, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taipei). Just substitute car for bicycle, and you could make a comparable movie about American teenagers; as phyrephox notes, the possession of the bike is critical for both boys, but in completely different ways: Guo needs the bike for economic survival, while Jian needs the bike as social status symbol, his friendships and dating life are as depenedent upon the bicycle as an American teenagers is dependent upon his car. This gulf of social class is always at the forefront of Beijing Bicycle
, and reflects one of the biggest social problems to affect China in the past few decades, the massive influx of lower-class peasants from the countryside who have come to the cities to find work (exemplified in the film's opening interview montage); it never recedes into the background, because the class disparity (Guo would be working-class, and Jian, while hardly affluent, would be among the new, emerging middle-class) equally motivates both boys tenacity in trying to gain ownership of the bike (that and both of them payed a lot of money for it). Guo is always shown as trudging to work, surrounded by a seemingly infinite sea of bicycles, on bustling, busy streets, constantly interacting with the new business interests that surround him, luxury and money that he will never be able to maintain (how can you forget the hilarious sequence in the luxury hotel when he tries to deliver the package to the gangster); Jian's scenes of riding the bike emphasize freedom, he rides with his tie pulled down from around his neck, with the wind breezing through his hair, and with a smile upon his face (surrounded by girls and friends, who can blame him). When Guo loses his bike, his economic survival is at stake, when Jian loses the bike, his social life comes to a sputtering halt, and he eventually loses his girl to an auburn haired, bike-riding punk (damn those bad boys, even in China!). Sure all of this could have been set up in a short film, but it ignores what are what I think, some of the best parts of the film: both boys desperate, tenacious, pursuit of their bicycle, equal parts desperation, anger, will, with a simultaneous absurdist, comic streak (when Guo refuses to let go of his bike, even after being attacked by Jian's friends), and then the slow, germination of at first, an uneasy truce, and then the possibility of friendship between Guo and Jian, which slowly develops as they learn to share their bike, based upon a plan of necessity. Unfortunately, Jian's ultimately frustrated yearning for social status, drags both boys into the realm of social (and economic) violence in the maze of tenement buildings among Beijing's streets. The film is patient, and I think it's patience is it's virtue, it works slowly, revealing details of the boy's lives, their social interaction, integration, and rejection, allowing them to accumulate against the unfolding backdrop of modern-day Beijing. I think phyrephox underrates it.