Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Trần Anh Hùng|
|Produced by||Christophe Rossignon|
|Written by||Tran Anh Hung|
|Starring||Lê Văn Lộc
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Trần Nữ Yên Khê
|Music by||Tôn-Thât Tiêt|
|Edited by||Nicole Dedieu
|Distributed by||New Yorker Video (Region 1 DVD)
Gaumont (Region 2 DVD)
|Release dates||September 1995 (premiere at VFF)
22 March 1996 (UK)
2 August 1996 (U.S.)
19 September 1996 (Australia)
|Running time||123 minutes|
The film won the Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice International Film Festival. It is a lively picture about hard lives of labor force in Saigon in early 1990s when the poor are struggling to find ways to survive in an unsafe and crowded city. There are some places in the movie hard to understand because it has full of abstracts, contrasts, and wordless communications. However, in a movie review, Maslin (1995) has asserted that such unusual complication which is a typical style of the film director makes the movie more memorable and successful.
The movie is about an 18 year-old boy who has been orphaned after his father died from a truck crash while he was in his usual work. The father was a cyclo driver, and his desire was the son would have a better life than he had. However, after the father’s death, because of the family hardship, the boy has to take over the father’s job, pedaling a rental cyclo around busy streets of Sai Gon city to earn a living. Living with the boy in a small house, there are his old grandfather, who repairs tires despite of his failing health, his little sister, who shines shoes for restaurant customers in the neighborhood, and his older sister, who carries water at a local market.
Their poor but peaceful lives are jeopardized when the cyclo is stolen by a gang. Having no money to pay for the robbed cyclo, the boy is forced to join a criminal organization and is under the supervision of a brooding gang leader, who is also a poet.
Meanwhile, his older sister also comes under the influence of the poet and becomes a prostitute. They develop feelings for each other. She visits his house where he is beaten by his father, who is furious for the profession he has taken. The poet brings the cyclo driver to Mr. Lullaby, who kills a victim by slitting his throat while singing a lullaby.
Ho Chi Minh City is hit by unrest as different gangs start fighting with each other. A truck carrying a helicopter crashes on a busy city-street. The cyclo driver blinds one eye of the man who stole his cyclo, but manages to remain unseen by anyone. He pays another visit to his lady employer to pay a part of his debt, but she refuses and becomes busy with her retarded son who has covered himself with yellow paint.
The poet assigns the cyclo driver the job of murdering a man. His two accomplices give him a gun and teach him how to kill their intended target. They also hand him a bottle of pills to reduce his anxiety, but warn him not to take too many. The poet and the cyclo driver's sister visit his childhood place. He leaves her in a nightclub with a client and she is abused by the man. Both the poet and the man realize their mistakes and the man tries to compensate by bribing the poet with a hefty sum of dollar. But the poet kills the man and then kills himself by setting fire to the room where he lives.
Meanwhile, the retarded son of the lady is killed when he is hit by a truck. The cyclo driver gets drunk and takes two tablets of the drug he has received from the poet's accomplices. He becomes hallucinatory in the flat where he has been forced to stay, failing to carry out the job of killing the man. Instead, he covers himself with blue paint and then due to the hallucinations he mistakenly shots himself twice. The next morning, the members of the gang find him badly injured but still alive, and the lady spares his life despite his failure because he reminds her of her deceased son. She releases him from the gang. The movie ends with the scene of the cyclo driver, still contemplating the memory of his father, driving his cyclo with his grandfather and his two sisters on it through a crowded road of Ho Chi Minh City.
The film soundtrack was written by Vietnamese composer Tôn-Thât Tiêt, who also collaborated with Trần Anh Hùng on The Scent of Green Papaya. The score received a "Best Music" award at the Festival International de Flandre in 1995. The soundtrack also contains several well-known Vietnamese ca dao (folk songs) and other popular songs:
- Nắng Chiều - Sung and played by handicapped street performers.
- Ru Con (Lullaby) sung by Lullaby Man.
- Thằng Bờm (Little Bờm)- Sung by Sad Woman to Crazy Son. Transliteration and translation.
- Em ơi, Hà Nội phố - Sung by Thanh Lam (the lounge singer).
- Creep by Radiohead - Playing in dance club.
- Blum-Reid, Sylvie (2003). East-West Encounters: Franco-Asian Cinema and Literature. Wallflower Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-1-903364-67-3.
- Maslin, J. (1995, October 12). Cyclo (1995) FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW; A Vietnamese Taxi Driver And His Unworldly Sister. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=990CE3DA1330F931A25753C1A963958260