Wang Xiaoshuai

Wang Xiaoshuai

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So Close to Paradise Review


Excellent
When the country of China is mentioned in conversation, it is usually in conjunction with the Great Wall, not its citizens. This film embarks on a remarkable journey through working class China in the late 1980's, as three characters struggle to help each other in a nation still trying to get to its feet.

The plot is simple, allowing the characters the attention they deserve. Dong Zi (Shi Yu) comes to the city from the countryside because of the opportunity to make money. He earns an honest living as a petty "shoulder pole" on the docks and is permitted to crash with Gao Ping (Guo Tao), an older gentleman and self-proclaimed businessman who tries to show him the ropes because they are from the same town. But Gao has a vendetta against a man who cheated him out of money. Though he dresses better and lives a fuller life than Dong, he is none the happier for doing so.

Continue reading: So Close to Paradise Review

Beijing Bicycle Review


Weak
In 1948, director Vittorio De Sica made The Bicycle Thief, the quintessential blueprint of neorealism, a drama widely considered one of the greatest films ever produced. It was shot in the streets of Italy with non-professional actors, and tells about the haves, the have-nots, and the desperate. For the uninitiated, the classic tale is motivated by the theft of a poor man's bicycle, an item which he must have in order to work. Fifty-three years later, Chinese writer-director Wang Xiaoshuai (So Close to Paradise) presents another story about class differences, shot in the streets of Beijing with non-professional actors, about a young man who needs to retrieve his stolen bike to keep his courier job. Homage? Theft? Gentle borrowing? What difference does it make when the result is delivered with too heavy a hand, and is just too slow to be involving?

Beijing Bicycle is introduced with a captivating style -- young men, mostly from poor farm families, appear on-camera individually and address the audience as they are interviewed for prestigious bike messenger positions. We hear an interviewer off-screen, but only witness these nervous, determined, sometimes blank faces, telling their stories in return for a chance at urban success. The narrative then follows one staffer, Guei (Cui Lin), as he zips through Beijing making deliveries to upscale office buildings, saving his earnings so that he can own his company bicycle.

Continue reading: Beijing Bicycle Review

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