Monday, May 17, 2010

"All for a lousy bicycle": Exploring the film Beijing Bicycle

“All for a lousy bicycle”: Exploring the film Beijing Bicycle

Adolescent angst seems to be universally charged and potentially ferocious as seen in the climatic scenes in the film Beijing Bicycle. Is the level of violence higher in non-western countries- and do extreme class distinctions propagate this type of behavior? No and yes, westernized nations may seem more peaceful, but go to their independent film archives and you will find real life street scenes like in “Green Street Hooligans,” where football in England gets taken to the extreme, and the documentary about LA gangs, “Crips and Bloods: Made in America.” Fighting over territory and material possessions is as old as man is, and some of the larger questions are if a government has the right to squelch these kinds films that expose, and whether the larger class distinctions contribute to more frequent fighting and terror.

“'I'm happy that my film is no longer forbidden and now I can make films openly,’" said Wang Xiaoshuai, director of the once-banned film Beijing Bicycle (Tang 1). The 2001 film is a beautifully simple one that encompasses many themes of class, personal angst, and survival. One of the biggest questions is why a film would win awards in throughout the world, but not be allowed to be shown in its own country, China. Since 2001 there have been some relaxations, but outsiders wonder if China is preventing westernization or exposure by having such strict policies, and what a movie like Beijing Bicycle has to offer the rest of the world that could be hidden by its own parent country. An American can’t help but make comparisons to its own experiences with teenagers or young adults when seeing kids go through the pain of crushes, failure to rise socially, and economic struggles.

The bicycle represented this illusive property, but was very different for the two main characters. For Guei the bicycle was tangible capital that he needed to survive economically. For Jian the bicycle was a symbol of social stature and gateway into the life he thought he wanted. Jian has a problem with material things, and the girl he wants is still a trophy when he has her. Guei is constantly reminded of his social level and stubbornness, but is definitely the hero of the pair. When first given the bike the delivery boss says, “These bikes are your livelihood. These are upscale mountain bikes. You may have not seen any where you are coming from. We are providing you such good bikes for our company’s image, but also to make you more efficient, so we can be more competitive.” (Beijing). Capitalism in a nutshell, an we wonder if this company is influenced by western ideas or simply taking the only route to efficiency and competitiveness. Jian gets to finally make the right decision by sharing the bike, but when his trophy is lost he resorts to baser human instincts.

The two main characters were wonderful in opposition and make a cacophony when thrust together. “The story bring these two boys together. They are very different people: urban and rural, educated and working, sulky and tenacious. The contrast between them is profound and yet their similarities are sufficient to take the film into a debate on the meaning – and meaninglessness of boyhood” (Donald). The end is cruel with Guei crying out, “I didn’t do anything” as he is beaten by the pseudo gang. Guei, as the rural character, goes through an initiation of sorts into the city. At one point he is forced to get naked and shower, accused of stealing, and then kicked out. This serves at a radical view of the “real” world in the city, and highlights the innocence of the rural citizen. Jian’s life features the lower middle class who are forced to steal or scalp for prestige, but are still proles. He enters arcades where teenagers play Dance, Dance, Revolution, and gets to briefly have a girlfriend. Guei gets to have a crush on a girl in his own class, but doesn’t get close to her. Many of Jian’s experiences are ones that Guei may never have, and the director seems to emphasize that both paths are meaningless.

The end of the film is a long shot of the city fading back further and further to reveal not only bikes, but buildings, cars and all the accoutrements of a bustling city. The pair of stars is left broken and the audience is left in horror to think of all the fights that can happen over any one piece of property. The simple story of a bike causing so much pain represents all the potential fights
over property and is nightmarish to really dwell on for too long. The biggest question is, do material possessions cause murder? Or is it human nature to fight over anything and everything. Another question is if China knows this is happening and attempts to suffocate the spread of capitalism in media, or if they are merely trying to control and western influence worldly filmmakers might impart. Foreign films seem to have little trouble getting shown in China, so maybe the problem was that this was too close to home. The country may feel such passions are western and try to squelch them, or that it exposes that there are definite class distinctions even in their society. Globalization has opened up the world onto itself and we see that all industrialized nations experience similar struggles and class differences.

Author’s Note: I really could elaborate buy hey I graduate this week! This was a beautiful film with so much going on. The bike was this giant phallic symbol like guns in militia run countries or Muscle Cars in the 50’s. It also was like a morality tale, stealing bikes will lead you to throwing bricks. It was so angsty- and just showed me that adolescence is universal, and so are the differences in class. I was also interested in how the older generation just sat and started and didn’t actively participate in the caretaking process. I will probably revise this- but I loved that this got to be my last paper in my undergraduate career- what a way to end it! I of course now have no idea what to do with my kids when they are teenagers- but we will get there when we get there- I'll make them ride used bikes or something....

Works Cited

Beijing Bicycle. Dir. Wang Xiaoshuai. Perf. Zhou Xun, Gao Yuanyuan, and Li Shuang. Arc Light Films, 2002. DVD.

Donald, Stephanie Hemelryk. "BEIJING BICYCLE." Metro 133 (2002): 190. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 16 Apr. 2010.

Tang, Yuankai. "Underground directors 'bicycling' aboveground. " Beijing Review 19 Feb. 2004: ProQuest Newsstand, ProQuest. Web. 16 Apr. 2010.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Final Paper

Orientalism- Western construct of the East. Not macho- enfeminized.

Is there an internal orientalism going on in China?

Occidentalism- eastern construct of the west.

Beijing Bicycle, Slumdog Millionaire, Summer Palace

In reality would latika still be a virgin?

( In reference to Latika- I meant would she really have been perfectly preserved for all those years- or was it cinematic technique to make her rape all the more tragic)

SOOOOO If I switch to Beijing Bicycle I will address the release of the film is the beginning, or part of, the movement to reveal Eastern globalization. A unique process that will never be identical to westernization, and cannot be directly a result of capitalism.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Globalcentrism not Globalcentralism- Biiig Difference

So is globalcentrism good or bad? Do we want a world united by its marketplace? Is it only possible within a marketplace? Our terms and fancy ideologies are what is uniting us- and democracy is infectious. Now is this great or disastrous? To be continued....

So yeah, The article by Coronil mentions St. Augustine who said, “that it is only at the end of a life that one can apprehend its meaning.” This is referring to the delusions that we are at the end of an era. This made me curious for more- and I remembered this book on my shelf that is one of those ones you have but never read through. The book is St. Augustine- Confessions, a dense pile over 200 pages of spiritual philosophy. He says, "It was obvious to me that things which are liable to corruption are good... For if they were supreme goods, they would be incorruptible. If there were no good in them, there would be nothing capable of being corrupted. Corruption does harm and unless it diminishes the good, no harm would be done. Therefore either corruption does not harm, which cannot be the case, or (which is wholly certain) all things that are corrupted suffer privation of some good...." (VII.xii(18) 124). He goes on and I had to read this a few times- but basically I felt that globalization does have some good, but is wholly corruptible and therefore not a supreme good. Ugh, I need to read more- in general.

Gikandi talks about the diaspora of images across the globe- a term I ususally only see next to Judaism,.....

Works Cited:

Augustine, Saint. Confessions. trans. Henry Chadwick. Oxford University Press: New York, 1991. Print.

Coronil, Fernando, 1944-. "Towards a Critique of Globalcentrism: Speculations on Capitalism's Nature." Public Culture 12.2 (2000): 351-374. Project MUSE. 27 Apr. 2010. Web.

Gikandi, Simon. "Globalization and the Claims of Postcoloniality." The South Atlantic Quarterly 100.3 (2001): 627-658. Project MUSE.

I was able to find a free copy of the complete Coronil article at:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Facsimile

This presentation was a lot of fun. I just kept trying to think of what would be interesting to an eleventh grader- and I talked about this with other people. Even my chiropractor was interested in the topic. Our group was a unit and I really liked working with everyone in a relaxed way.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

American Lit You Twobe

Buckingham page 23

Although Dickinson, 1830-1886,was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime. The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. (wiki)
Unique For Her Time…
What other forms of entertainment are new for their time?

Fish- Dolphin- Sea Turtle- How does Baby Einstein Work?

Okay- I'm guilty- I admit it- I let me children watch TV before two years of age despite that being the recommended age by the "professionals." Whew -- that felt good, I truly needed to get that off my chest. All I know is that it is 7:56am- I am sitting at my computer doing homework, and my son is peacefully sitting close by and he is naming all the animals he sees on Baby Einstein: World Animals. These tapes have come under fire- and article by Dr. Dave of the National Institute on Media & the Family, who believes, "The lure of the product appeals to the hopes of every new parent who wants her baby to get a jumpstart on achievement. That sounds nice, but there's an implied threat here too: if you deprive your little one of this wonderful product you will relegate him to a lifetime of stupidity... Very simply put, it gets kids hooked on screens before they can even crawl. There's nothing wrong with the colorful and child-friendly content. The problem is that the videos wire the growing brain to expect constant entertainment and to always look to the screen for everything good in life." What a convincing statement.
But I tell ya- I didn't expect my kids to become little einsteins- just to sit still a little bit-and learn while hearing classical music. Right now- right this second my son is waddling over to me with a blanket draped over his head, "i wanna sit wi' momma'- okay time to go now.... tbc