Monday, October 22, 2007

Man Push Cart: Grade B


Man Push Cart (2005)

Amahd Razvi, Leticia Dolera. Writer-Director: Ramin Bahrani.

This is an enjoyable though somewhat depressing slice of life – of a young Pakistani street vendor in New York City. He hauls his stainless steel cart through the busy pre-dawn streets to sell bagels and coffee to office workers when the business day begins. He lives alone, pines for his deceased wife, and tries to connect with his young son in foster care. He tries unsuccessfully to form relationships. He rescues a subway kitten, which then dies in his apartment. It’s a cold, hard, extremely lonely life, in which the tiny bright spots are the small kindnesses exchanged among street vendors and fellow Pakistanis in the city. The cinematography is beautiful and the music haunting (although unnecessary). Sound engineering is exceptionally good. New York City never sounded or looked so good. The success of the movie is in giving us a sense of intimacy with the character. We feel that we understand what it is like to be inside that coffee cart, inside his skin, grateful that we are not, and how hard life really is for immigrants like him. One former street vendor who has been wildly successful is described as now working in a Dunkin Donuts in Albany. “He’s got it made, man.” I enjoy this kind of artistic cinema, but I confess it was sloooow, even for me. I get that life is hard, without having to see him wrestle his cart down the street SIX times. Twice would have done it; maybe only once. A little character development also would have gone a long way.

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