Film Scouts Reviews

"Xich lo"

by Henri Béhar

Directed by Vietnam-born Paris-based Tran Anh Hung, "Cyclo" fully deserves its Gold Lion award for Best film in competition in Venice. The roads of modern-day Ho chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) are filled with cyclos, bicycle rickshaws pedalling through the chaotic city to convey packages or passengers to their destinations. It's a hard and dangerous job, yet far less dangerous than the Cyclo life itself, as the 18-year-old played by Le Van Loc soon finds out. It's a life of misery, of dashed hopes, ultimately of crime as nothing will help you break the cycle of poverty. Losing his rented cyclo, probably to gang warfare, the young man, is forced to commit various acts of sabotage to pay back his boss-renter. He becomes addited to easy money and the feeling of power he gains from breaking the law, falls in with the reluctant leader of one of Ho chi Minh City's gangs, the Poet, who also doubles as his own sister's pimp (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, "in a worderfully desperate performance", as programmer David Overbey writes). Brimming with corruption and lost innocence, mixing violence with tenderness, "Cyclo" confirms the incredible talent of the 33-year-old man who made his directorial debut with "The Scent of the Green Papaya".

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