Continuing my quest to view every DVD in the Los Angeles Public Library catalogue.
MAN PUSH CART (2006)
This is a movie many critics (87% on Rotten Tomatoes) fell over themselves praising upon its release. This is a “critic’s movie” because in their reviews they can use words like “Bressonian” and make comparisons to the “myth of Sisyphus.”
I hated this goddamn thing.
It has a very simple story: in the earliest hours of each weekday morning, Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant, pulls his shiny metal coffee and donut stand several blocks to the same New York City street corner, where he spends the day selling its contents. He pulls it back to the warehouse at the close of business. Then he does it all over again.
There are some bits about Ahmad’s late wife and the fact that Ahmad was a rock star in Pakistan (we never hear him sing). His harsh in-laws now care for his toddler son, as practically every waking moment Ahmad is working –after his cart duty he works odd jobs from painting to night club ticketing. He even sells bootleg Asian porn DVDs (“$8, or 2 for $15”) to other immigrants who work similar low level jobs. Ahmad meets a beautiful Spanish girl who works at a newsstand, but he’s unable to connect with her.
This movie is very slow and deliberate. At least half of the run time is Ahmad pulling that damn cart! There are a lot of tight close ups and out of focus shots when Ahmad is in his cart. One piece of very sad music is repeated often. The movie has a documentary feel (I’d much rather it had been a doc instead of a work of fiction). We get it; he, and other immigrants like him, has a grueling, monotonous existence.
So what was the point of all this? I haven’t the foggiest idea. I listened to director/writer Ramin Bahrani’s commentary over the last scene and according to him it was about “hope.” Ahmad has continued to remain humble and thoughtful of others through his banal, crushing existence (he never complains). The director states that Ahmad will do what he has to and reunite with his son. Well, good luck with that, Ahmad, because in the only scene where we see his kid, the boy is starting to forget his father (plus you know Ahmad’s shrill mother in law is filling the kid with all sorts of bile about Ahmad, the man she blames for her daughter’s death).
This is one of those movies where too much was going on in the writer/director’s mind, but with his minimalist filmmaking approach most of that isn’t on the screen.