Tony's Composition in "Cyclo": A Tribute Forum Index -> Movie Reviews by the fans / fanfics
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Joined: 04 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:28 am    Post subject: Tony's Composition in "Cyclo": A Tribute


The ashen face, the perpetually downcast eyes, the laconic, inward demeanor, the clean white jacket The Poet wears, throughout the movie. The cut on his right hand, almost healed at the beginning, that later morphs into a gash, deep enough to bleed through a thick wrap of bandages when he threatens the Cyclo with his fist (after the boy says that he wants to join “the gang”), then heals again, covered by a clean elastoplast, before reappearing as a thin red trace, towards the end of the story. Was this subtle touch Tony’s idea? We know he works “from the outside in”, using external features (Chow Mo-Wan’s mustache in 2046 being the most celebrated example of this practice). If so, it’s a brilliantly subtle touch, telegraphing The Poet’s primal wound: the mark of shame inflicted by a cruel father, the wound to his soul that never heals… also hinted at by his nosebleeds, which, his mother reveals, began in childhood.

The Poet first appears as a silent somber presence, hovering outside the Boss Lady’s window and smoking a cigarette, as the shadow of a bird flits across his face. Behind him, through the barred opening, the Boss Lady, a pleasantly ripe middle-aged woman, is sitting before the young Cyclo, shifting her position and checking the buttons of her silk pyjama. We will later learn that part of The Poet’s duties is to service the Boss Lady’s libido (and what utter emptiness we then see in his eyes), when she confides to him (probably for the umpteenth time) that her mentally disabled son was born of a youthful affair with a seventeen year old boy who abandoned her and the child.
That entire dynamic is foreshadowed in that initial shot of The Poet, outside her window, defining him as the sacrificial figure in this cautionary tale of sullied innocence, as he smokes with his back to the Boss Lady’s window, warning the woman, who nervously glances over. Warning her that he is on to her, warning her not to proceed to seduce the Cyclo, as she once presumably seduced him, when he was the same age.

For The Poet, we gradually deduce, was once just such an innocent boy, driven by poverty into the Boss Lady’s employ and pressed into her gang at the same tender age, probably by the very same subterfuge of having his pedicab stolen by her henchmen. That the Poet was once such a child is made eloquently clear in the scene where he takes The Sister to his parents’ home and the couple sit quietly with The Poet’s mother, a kind and gentle woman, who bears a striking physical resemblance to the Boss Lady. Until his father rages into the room, brandishing a bamboo flail and, with a cold, relentless fury, beating The Poet who regresses before our eyes into a terrified, helpless little boy, desperately trying to skitter out of reach of the blows, as the two women hold each other and cry.

But The Poet’s attempts at protecting both the Cyclo (epitomized in the guiding hand he places on the boy’ shoulder, as he leads him into bondage) and The Sister (whose virginity he tries to protect by pimping her only to fetishists, whom he warns not to touch her) are doomed to failure, not least because they are tainted by his own perverse ambivalence, as his father’s loathing of him plays itself out in his own actions. The Poet’s defining trait is shame, a bottled-up, suffocating shame, that finally plays itself out as self-fulfilling prophesy, and drives him to suicide, as though he believes the world will finally be a better place for his leaving it.

The Poet is a Fallen Angel, whose unfulfilled longing for a lost paradise (the paradise of childhood, alluded to in repeated scenes of happy children singing, or reciting poetry, or playing musical instruments, or leading The Sister by the hand toward redemption) drives his platonic love affair with The Sister, but whose death-wish leads him to pimp her to a john who rapes and batters her (The Poet’s misgivings are obvious as he hesitates, then pushes the key to the handcuffs across the table, and in his mounting anguish, prompting another nosebleed, as he leaves the nightclub to the sound of “Creep” by Radiohead:

When you were here before,
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel,
Your skin makes me cry

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special

You're so fucking special

But I'm a creep,
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doin' here?
I don't belong here

I don't care if it hurts,
I wanna have control

I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
when I'm not around
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doin' here?
I don't belong here…

Fulfilling the prophecy of his father’s beatings, The Poet makes himself an accomplice to The Sister’s rape and when confronted with the consequences, first turns himself into an Avenging Angel, inflicting a long, slow death on the perpetrator, and then ends his own life, in a kind of purification rite by fire.

As for Tony, in my estimation his composition as The Poet ranks among his very finest, not least because it is mostly silent. But unlike Wen-ching, Tony’s deaf-mute character in Hou Hsia-Hsien’s City of Sadness, who seeks transcendence through art, and whose close-knit family is ultimately torn apart by the external forces of war and revolution, The Poet is a broken, repressed, doomed individual, riven by internal conflict, an unfledged man at war with himself, whose default setting is despair and whose only path to transcendence leads him to self-annihilation. The composition Tony crafts in this movie is unforgettable, in the same league as his most inward characters Chow Mo-Wan 1 & 2, and Mr. Yee, all tragic figures defined by stalemated inner conflict. The miracle is that this great tragedian is also such a peerless comic actor… Peace.
Pour l'essentiel, l'homme est ce qu'il cache - André Malraux
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Joined: 22 Mar 2006
Posts: 1322
Location: Austria

PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2009 2:08 pm    Post subject: "Cyclo"

Dear Fellow Fans
Late enough - I did watch "Cyclo" ( first time the complete movie from DVD )

This is a masterpiece, I have to watch once more next days . Tooo much to grasp everything after one time - I want to disentangle some more facts ! (Poet ´s poems - cans of colours - ......)

A wonderful but also violent piece of movie - nothing for sensitive nerves -it tears you emotional and I have nothing to add to Hong´s review !

This movie is to recomment and is a MUST for Tony fans. He is indescribable great - once more - one of his best !!!!
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