Man Push Cart (2005)
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Starring Ahmad Razvi
Beautifully shot, atmospheric drama concerning the travails of a world weary Pakistani push cart man selling coffee and bagels for a living whilst suffering the loneliness of being an outsider within the big apple.
The shots of New York from street level, especially while the push cart is on the move are terrific, Ahmad Razvi who was (is?) a genuine push cart trader is excellent as a man worn down by life and the daily grind, a restrained nuanced performance that feels honest.
From the director's statement, where he quoted the likes of Kiarostami as an influence and describes Man Push Cart as poetry, I was expecting and hoping for a very low key film with just the everyday struggle to earn a living as the core, what I wasn't expecting and what detracted from the film were the numerous plots and sub plots.
From his past life in Lahore, to the problems he faces with his in-laws, through a near romantic interlude, as well as a scene that reminded me of the Vietnamese film Cyclo or De Sica's Bicycle Thieves, the misery is compounded until, like the central character, you feel completely nullified to it all. There's too much effort made to try and create a story and too many characters that detract from the essence of film.
What started out as a promising minimalist art-house film ended up feeling too convoluted, if the story had been kept simplified and some of the extraneous plots and characters removed, it may have felt more poetic and pertinent, especially to those who still believe in the "American dream" .
Still recommended viewing though.
BBFC rated 15
R2 dvd distributed by Dogwoof Pictures.
Minimal extras - trailer, stills gallery and text interview with director.