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Beijing Bicycle

Often, foreign titles offer the most sublime, unexpected treats on DVD, and Beijing Bicycle ("Shiqi sui de dan che") is no exception — the story of two youths who find themselves locked in a dispute over a single bicycle is quiet and profound, but also emotionally wrenching by the time it's through. Guei (Cui Lin), a rural teenager, moves to the teeming city of Beijing, staying with an uncle and hoping to earn a living. And he happens upon a great opportunity: As a bicycle messenger, he is given a brand-new silver bike, which he will own after his first month of work, thanks to an arrangement with his employer. Guei loves the job, although being from the country he is a bit timid (he is cautioned by his uncle not to reveal his rural roots to strangers). He's also proud, and stubborn as a mule. But the day before he will finish paying for his bicycle, the shiny ride is stolen and he's fired for missing an important delivery. Guei plans to find the bike (which he secretly marked), hoping to get his job back. On the other side of town, schoolboy Jian (Lee Bing) is told by his father that the family cannot afford to buy him a bicycle this year, as they have to pay for his sister's tuition. But Jian already has a bike, which he bought second-hand after stealing his sister's funds, and which he hides from his father. For Jian, the bike is a means of courting his girlfriend Qin (Zhou Xun). However, it's Guei's bicycle that Jian is riding, and when Guei finds his hard-earned ride he steals it back, launching a turf war between the earnest messenger and a gang of teenage toughs that grows more and more violent with each passing day. Directed by Xiaoshuai Wang, Beijing Bicycle earned several film festival awards, and it's not to be overlooked by film buffs, or even folks just looking for gripping, intelligent drama. The movie has a remarkably poetic quality — scenes tend to play out naturally with extended takes, which would threaten to make the film too slow-paced, but the characters and events make every moment quietly mesmerizing. The script also features a minimum of dialogue, and frequently entire sequences are rendered in silence. These moments are bolstered by the sound design — while Beijing Bicycle has an attractive score, it's modestly employed. The city of Beijing is not only the visual backdrop to the story, but the aural one as well, with long stretches that capture the ambient sounds occurring both in the city's busy center and its placid, ramshackle neighborhoods. For Wang, each moment presents an opportunity to create a striking composition or tableau, but the masterful filmmaking would be useless without the moving story (by Peggy Chiao and Hsiao-ming Hsu) and the central performances from Cui Lin and Lee Bing. The boys may represent two faces of China with their urban and rural backgrounds, but their struggle is not merely over an object, but how a simple bicycle provides them with both opportunity and identity. It's perhaps one of the most profound teenage dramas to be found on DVD. Columbia TriStar's release of Beijing Bicycle features a strong anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a clean source-print, with audio in Dolby 2.0 Surround and digital English subtitles. Trailers, keep-case.
—JJB



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