by Tran Anh Hung
i don’t know why this film hasn’t received more attention. I enjoyed it much more than I thought i would. I think part of the reason for that belongs to the genre-bending approaches a lot of these newer Asian films take to their topics. Being outside the mainstream marketplace, they enjoy a freedom of movement. Oftentimes they’re driven, like traditional auteur films, less by committee and more by a director’s vision. Cyclo has that consistency.Which is a good thing, for like a bowl of Vietnamese Pho, it’s a blend of ingredients that work together only in the right hands.
Cyclo is a kind of Vietnamese Bicycle Thief: it deals with a rickshaw driver (bicyclist) and his struggle to make it–for himself and his family. His cycle is stolen by a gang that is part traditional Asian gang/triad, part hooligan, and part nouveau riche. So the film, in its own way, uses the same situation as the Bicycle Thief but gives us an Asian spin.
The spin that turns the wheel in Cyclo is a struggle involving not the struggle of lower classes but the struggle of filial loyalty and family tradition against global capital. However, the struggle is told intimately. The effects of social conflict are shown in beautiful and even lyrical terms. We see what’s in nature a global conflict unfold in the relations that bind members of a family together. Where a man’s pride is the victim in the Bicycle Thief, in Cyclo it is the logic of social tradition that is broken.
The film’s cinematography is lush and fluid even though much of it is handheld. It has a well-spaced rhythm, and takes pause now and then to reflect on life. I felt very at ease with it and recommend it to those who can take a slower film….