The wife of Nasim, an Afghan immigrant in Iran, is gravely ill. He needs money to pay for her care, but his day labor digging wells does not pay enough. A friend connects Nasim to a two-bit...
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Consisting of three separate stories, the director explores "Man" as a theme: birth, life and death, to present a sometimes comic, sometimes tragic portrait of life at the bottom of the ... See full summary »
The wife of Nasim, an Afghan immigrant in Iran, is gravely ill. He needs money to pay for her care, but his day labor digging wells does not pay enough. A friend connects Nasim to a two-bit promoter who sells tickets to watch Nasim ride a bicycle continuously for a week. The promoter brings in sick and aged spectators, haranguing them to find hope in Nasim's strength. Aided by his son, who feeds him as he rides, Nasim grinds out the days and shivering nights. Local officials believe this may be a plot and Nasim may be a spy; they try to sabotage him as do those who bet he won't finish the week. Will desperation alone get Nasim the money? Is any triumph an illusion? Written by
The Iranian movie Bicycleran was shown in the U.S. with the title The Cyclist (1987). It was written and directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. (Makhmalbaf is the director of the highly acclaimed film Kandahar. He is also the director who is impersonated by the protagonist in the Kiarostami movie Close-Up.)
Moharram Zaynalzadeh plays Nasim, an Afghani refugee in Iran. His wife is near death from illness, and Nasim--although he is intelligent and eager to work--cannot afford to pay for her medical care.
In Afghanistan, Nasim was a serious bicyclist who once was able to ride his bike continually for three days. Now, in order to obtain money, he agrees to ride the bike for seven days straight.
There are multiple sub-plots involving gamblers who are pro- or anti-Nasim, but I found that aspect of the movie very confusing. The problem is that the real plot is Nasim's suffering as he continues to cycle around and around the circle. However, you can't have a movie showing nothing but a man riding a bicycle, so director Makhmalbaf had to find something to show us other than that. What he shows us offers a glimpse of society in Iran, and a harsh look at the oppression of the Afghans that have fled there.
I thought the movie would be in black, white, and gray. Absolutely incorrect--the Iranian urban scenes (at least in 1987) were a riot of noise and color. The film is filled with activity, both at the cycling site and the city around the site.
We saw the film on DVD, where it worked very well. Any film will work better in a theater than on a small screen, but The Cyclist didn't suffer much by the transfer to DVD.
As I write this review, The Cyclist has an IMDb rating of 7.4, which is good. I thought it was even better than that, and gave it a 9. However, it's not a movie for everyone. I don't know what audience The Cyclist had in Iran, but in the U.S. this film is definitely for people who like unusual foreign movies with sub-titles. We love unusual foreign movies with sub-titles, so we thought it was great.
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