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With: Le Van Loc, Tony Leung, Tran Nu Yen Khe, Nguyen Nhu Quynh
Written by: Tran Anh Hung
Directed by: Tran Anh Hung
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Vietnamese with English subtitles
Running Time: 129
Date: 09/15/1995

Cyclo (1995)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Real Wheels

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung moves a step up from his Oscar nominated period piece The Scent of Green Papaya with this outstanding story of a lower-class family living in today's Vietnam. At first glance, it resembles The Bicycle Thief in that its hero's (Le Van Loc) pedicab is stolen and in the way that it portrays the grungy reality of everyday life. But Tran -- who has lived in Paris since 1975 -- can also look at the country with an outsider's eye. He imbues his film with some astonishing visual flourishes, such as a character smothering himself in blue paint and another stylish scene in a dance club (featuring Radiohead's great song "Creep"). After the hero, known only as Cyclo, loses his method of work, he stumbles in with a group of gangsters, led by Tony Leung-Chiu Wai (Bullet in the Head, In the Mood for Love), also known as "the poet." The poet also recruits Cyclo's sister, the ethereally beautiful Tran Nu Yen Khe (Tran's wife and muse, also in The Scent of Green Papaya and Tran's third film The Vertical Ray of the Sun), making her work as a prostitute. Cyclo's excellence comes not in its plot but in its rhythms, and its flawless juxtaposition of dreams and reality, or art and trash, and of pain and pleasure.

DVD Details: New Yorker's long-awaited DVD is presented in its uncut length of 129 minutes. It comes in a beautiful transfer and includes the theatrical trailer -- which emphasizes the film's flourishes. For some reason, New Yorker forgot to put the title of the film on the box spine, but perhaps future printings will correct this.

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