Tuesday, September 9, 2008

MAN PUSH CART (Ramin Bahrani, 2006, USA) Ahmad pushes his cart through the busy New York City streets every morning, vaguely existing on the periphery, and carries a burden heavier than aluminum and steel deep within his heart. This existential drama seems purposeless; Ahmad is a poor immigrant who is acted upon by outside forces beyond his control, and suffers needlessly…he does not deserve this agony. His kindness is reflected in the caring for a helpless kitten but even this act of charity leads to sadness. Ahmad’s past is a mystery and though we are teased with subtle revelations, we are no closer into understanding his character. He was once a popular rock-star in Pakistan but now sells donuts and coffee from his little cart. When a businessman offers to amp-up his career, Ahmad seems interested but just can’t articulate his emotional anarchy, this deep nihilistic pervasive dread. This interior glaciation leads to isolation and he’s unable to meaningfully connect with those around him, even his own family and little boy. There is some suggestion that his wife died but was he being honest, or was this just a way to end an uncomfortable situation? He saves all his money to buy this cart; it is the symbol of his success and a profound achievement. It is also a connection to his recent past, a loving wife and child who shared happier times before the unknown tragedy. Uninsured, it is stolen and never recovered and his world begins to destruct. He scrambles around the busy streets asking for help but uncaring and faceless bodies pass him by, too concerned with their own lives. He ends up in a friend’s cart, serving coffee and donuts, this brutal cycle nearly complete. Ramin Bahrani’s camerawork is intimate and close-up, following Ahmad through dangerous streets and alleys and into his little apartment. He shoots the buildings from low-angle, the view of the poor worker who stares in awe at the imposing and ever watchful castle tower, and bathes the people in the neon glow of unreality. As the lights blink out and darkness consumes Ahmad, I choose to see a happier future for him: now that the metal burden of his past is lifted he can now focus on healing. And his son. (A)

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