Beijing Bicycle

Cui Lun and Li Bin.
Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai.
Running Time: 113 mins
Rated: M

The judgements of International Film Festival Juries are notoriously unpredictable, but the selection of Beijing Bicycle for the Sliver Bear at Berlin last year took the cake. I was there, serving one of the other nine juries at the festival. No other jury gave the film a thought for their prizes, little lone a gong. We were stunned when it got the runners-up award from the International Jury.

Beijing Bicycle is a simple story. A young man from the country migrates to the capital to find work. On a rented bicycle he becomes a courier and earns enough money to buy the bike outright. When the bike gets stolen, he is in danger of loosing his job unless he can recover his wheels. Amongst the millions of bikes in Beijing he finds his own and steals it back, only to have it stolen again. Life's hard in the big city!

Beijing Bicycle is beautifully shot and there are a couple of genuinely moving scenes. It also gives an interesting insight into the lower levels of the emerging capitalist systems operating in modern China. And though I am more than aware of the currency of bicycles in China, and that director Wang Xiaoshuai may be using it as a metaphor for a larger ideological
story, this tale is laboriously drawn out to 113 minutes.

One member of my jury mused that with the Silver Bear in his keeping, Xiaoshuai might be tempted to make Beijing Bicycle 2: The Bike Returns! Unless it's a short film, count me out!

Richard Leonard SJ

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