It has been an awfully long time since I have been able to add a new country to my list of film nations. This time it’s Vietnam’s turn as I look at Cyclo, a film that won at the Venice Film Festival and also appears on the 1001 list.
The only reason that I ended up watching Cyclo tonight was because I was flicking through the 1001 Films book and came across a very eye-catching image in the book. A man covered in blue paint being embraced by a woman in white. It’s one of those pages I always end up lingering on, so I figured that it was time that I actually watched the film.
Cyclo is one of those films that takes you to a place that most will never have experienced, in a City of God kind of way rather than a Frozen one. It very much has a Bicycle Thief thing going on in the beginning. A man makes his living by cycling (in this case a type of rickshaw), this device gets stolen, what does he do next.
Where in the 1950s Italian film he steals a bike and is made into a pariah, the unnamed cyclo driver is instead forced to pay-off the debt to his ‘boss lady’ by carrying out tasks for the local gang of hoodlums. This then leads to his sister falling for ‘the poet’, the leader of the gang who then leads her into strangely fetishistic prostitution. She doesn’t get ‘touched’ but she does have to deal with a man who wants to watch her pee standing up…
It’s one of those films that tries to take an unflinchingly realistic view at life in Vietnamese poverty, all to the backdrop of a lot of liquids and child labour. It’s a rewarding watch if you can deal with the fact that a lot of the plot gets lost in dialogue-less scenes. The film itself is beautifully shot with the final scene of the central nameless character smothering himself in blue paint being strangely mesmerizing.