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Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
Beijing: young men in packs, machismo, class divisions, violence, and indifference. Guei arrives from the country: toothbrushes, hotel foyers, and Qin, a rich neighbor in high heels, dazzle him. He gets a job as a messenger. The company issues him a bike, which he must pay for out of his wages. When it is stolen, Guei hunts for it. A student, Jian, has it; for him, it's the key to teen society - with his pals and with Xiao, a girl he fancies. Guei finds the bike and stubbornly tries to reclaim it in the face of great odds. But for Jian to lose the bike would mean humiliation. The two young men - and the people around them - are swept up in the youths' desperation. Written by
Quasi-remake of De Sica's `Ladri di biciclette,' set in the sprawling metropolis of contemporary Beijing. Director Wang Xiaoshuai borrows not just the seedling idea but much of the approach of the Italian Neo-Realist classic. A stolen bicycle leads two boys from one sad situation to another, and Wang lets those situations determine the film's form, rather than using deliberate techniques to give it shape. This result is going to inspire different responses--like `Ladri di biciclette' itself, it's going to seem refreshingly artless to some, frustratingly aimless to others. Likewise, the film's tremendous stillness is going to draw some viewers in while alienating others. There are passing comments on image, perception, and class divisions, but the style (Chinese-Italian Neo-Neo-Realism?) really prevents the director from exploring any of these ideas too thoroughly. Personally, while I appreciate the respectful approach to the film's inspiration, I wish Wang would have really cut loose with some radical new take on `Ladri,' as Tim Burton did with his masterpiece, `Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.' As it is, `Shiqi sui de dan che' left me a little bit cold; it was all done is good taste, but the result was curiously lifeless. For all his deference to De Sica, Wang can't really recreate the Italian director's emotional depth, no matter how precisely he recreates his style. Without that depth, this film is as beautiful as a series of still photographs, but no more alive. 6 out of 10.
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