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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'Beijing Bicycle'

Dennis King Published: March 4, 2013

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“Beijing Bicycle”

There is poignancy and truth and rawness in “Beijing Bicycle” (due out on DVD Tuesday), and much like the Italian classic “The Bicycle Thief” the film is an unvarnished gem that shows us struggles of the poor in a country roiling with  poverty, oppression and dim promise.

This 2001 tale, told in Mandarin with English subtitles, follows a 19-year-old country boy, Guei, who moves to bustling Beijing and lands a job with a bicycle delivery service. Astride a company-owned two-wheeler, Guei works conscientiously in hopes of paying back the company and making the bike his own.

But just before he’s due to make his final payment, the bicycle is stolen and Guei is fired. So off he goes on an arduous, surprise-filled quest to find his bike, reclaim it and get his job back.

Along the way, Guei discovers that the bicycle is now in the possession of a young student who bought it used. And the struggle over ownership becomes more tangled and perilous as Guei encounters roving gangs of street toughs, a cliquish teen subculture and hidden neighborhoods of Beijing plagued by class divisions, violence and indifference.

Director Wang Xiaoshuai (“Shanghai Dreams”) blends lots of kinetically lyrical images of bicycles in motion with raw scenes of teen violence and longing under an oppressive social system to create a drama of wrenching and memorable beauty.

“Beijing Bicycle is rated PG-13 (for violence and brief nudity) and runs 113 minutes. It’s being released by Sony Home Entertainment.

- Dennis King


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