China in the 1920's. After her father's death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each ... See full summary »
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
Beijing Bicycle is certainly a layered movie that can be read at many levels. It ostensibly deals with a delicate and difficult subject that China confronts in its frenzied project of modernization: the floating population who lives on the edge of the city, the marginalized group that can no longer be glossed over in the grand narrative of urbanization. This floating population is the abjection, the cluster that can not be assimilated, the group being ruthlessly cast away but stubbornly clings on, and protests in silence; it is a disoriented group, usually incompatible to the ever-changing landscape of metropolitans; their voice is constantly being submerged in the hubbub of the sleepless cities. Indeed, the floating population is aphemic. What strikes me, frustrates me and saddens me is Gui's inability to communicate, to speak out, and to articulate for himself. (This is a little far off, but I was reminded of the similar frustration I had as a little girl when reading 'the little mermaid': if the mermaid has not given her voice away to the witch, she could tell the prince that it was she who saved him and wins his love.) Similar to the little mermaid, Gui could not speak up when he was wronged and abused. For instance, all Gui could convey to get his bicycle back is either his obstinate silence or his repeated sentence: "zhe che ben lai jiu shi wo de" (the bicycle is originally mine). His desperate, strident and continuous cry when being forced with violence by Jian's gang to let go off his bicycle is simply heart-breaking. Who is to blame for Gui's aphasia? Is it class division? Is it his own dislocation? Or is it the indifference of the city with its condescending atmosphere? The picture is definitely not black and white. The result of his aphasia, on the other hand, is more self-evident: at the end of the movie, Gui eventually turns to violence to break his silence It is said that at least 60% of the crime that happens in Chinese cities comes from the floating population. They are suggested to be the root of the social problems. News reports constantly show how the innocent city folks are being hurt and robbed by those "the other" from the abjection, the floating population. Beijing Bicycle, however, attempts to approach this abjection, to speak up for those who do not speak for themselves, and allow us to sympathize with their plight.
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