Cyclo

on August 01, 1996 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   The follow-up film by the director of "The Scent of Green Papaya" is as different from that gentle, subtle film as any movie could be. That's not necessarily a good thing, as "Cyclo" pretty much spins its wheels on every level.
   Le Van Loc stars as the title character a Cyclo, or bicycle rickshaw driver trying to make a living in the turbulent and teeming current-day Ho Chi Minh City. When the young man's vehicle is stolen, he's forced to commit criminal acts by his domineering female boss in order to afford a new bicycle. He's led into increasing involvement with crime and an association with a cruel pimp (played by Tony Leung Chui-wai), whose stable includes the Cyclo's beautiful elder sister (Tran Nu Yen Khe, who was also in "The Scent of Green Papaya").
   Although well-received at the Toronto fest, "Cyclo" is an odd, jarring juxtaposition of introspective, leisurely filmmaking and a brutal, even kinky script laced with explicit sex and violence; it's as if Robert Bresson were directing a Martin Scorsese story. Although "Cyclo" is initially fascinating as a portrait of modern Vietnam, it quickly grows tedious, with endless shots of Loc driving around the city or looking anguished.
   The acting in "Cyclo" is fine, but the film is less concerned with character than with scenery. Tran moves his characters around so he can position them in artfully composed shots but without worrying about their motivations or about the logic of their actions. "Cyclo" is the opposite of "The Scent of Green Papaya" in that and in so many other respects. Al-though some moviegoers will doubtless applaud Tran's drastic change of pace, aficionados of gripping and relevant drama will be left cold by this experimental failure.    Starring Le Van Loc, Tony Leung Chui-wai and Tran Nu Yen Khe. Directed and written by Tran An Hung. Produced by Christophe Rossignon. Vietnamese-language; subtitled. A CFP release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 120 min.
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