“Cyclo” and Cinema of Tran Anh Hung.

Lat year when I saw “Scent of green papaya” it changed my perspective in storytelling in Cinema. I loved that film and loved the screen-writing and cinematography of that amazing Vietnamese film. The scent of green papaya was directed by Tran Anh Hung, renowned Vietnamese-born French film director. That film was nominated for the best foreign film in Academy awards.


CYCLO (1995) poster 3

Today I saw Cyclo ( 1995 ) another gem film directed by Tran Anh. In fact, Cyclo is the second film of Tran Anh. Cyclo is a story of a young Vietnamese man who struggles through life by earning some money with his bicycle-taxi in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) establishes contact with a group of criminals. They introduce him to the world of drugs and crime. Tran has received an international name and claim for his films, especially his first three films which are entirely based on the lives at his home country. Cyclo won the Golden Lion at 52nd Venice International Film Festival.

Tran is well known to the western audience for his film “Norwegian Wood”, an adaptation from cult novelist Haruki Murakami’s book with the same name.


About Cyclo –

The movie is about an 18-year-old Vietnamese boy who has been orphaned after his father died from a crash. because of the family hardship, the boy has to take over the father’s job, pedaling a rental cyclo around busy streets of Sai Gon city to earn a living. Living with the boy in a small house, there is his old grandfather, who repairs tires, his little sister, who shines shoes for restaurant customers in the neighborhood, and his older sister, who carries water at a local market.



Their poor but peaceful lives are shattered when the cyclo is stolen by a gang. Having no money to pay for the robbed cyclo, the boy is forced to join a criminal organization and is under the supervision of a brooding gang leader, who is also a poet.

Meanwhile, his older sister also comes under the influence of the poet and becomes a prostitute. They develop feelings for each other. She visits his house where he is beaten by his father, who is furious for the profession he has taken. The poet brings the cyclo driver to Mr. Lullaby, who kills a victim by slitting his throat while singing a lullaby.

Ho Chi Minh City is hit by unrest as different gangs start fighting with each other. A truck carrying a helicopter crashes on a busy city-street. The cyclo driver blinds one eye of the man who stole his cyclo, but manages to remain unseen by anyone. He pays another visit to his lady employer to pay a part of his debt, but she refuses and becomes busy with her retarded son who has covered himself with yellow paint.

The poet assigns the cyclo driver the job of murdering a man. His two accomplices give him a gun and teach him how to kill their intended target. They also hand him a bottle of pills to reduce his anxiety but warn him not to take too many. The poet and the cyclo driver’s sister visit his childhood place. He leaves her in a nightclub with a client and she is abused by the man. Both the poet and the man realize their mistakes and the man tries to compensate by bribing the poet with a hefty sum of money. But the poet kills the man and then kills himself by setting fire to the room where he lives.


Meanwhile, the retarded son of the lady is killed when he is hit by a truck. The cyclo driver gets drunk and takes two tablets of the drug he has received from the poet’s accomplices. He becomes hallucinatory in the flat where he has been forced to stay, failing to carry out the job of killing the man. Instead, he covers himself with blue paint and then due to the hallucinations he mistakenly shoots himself twice. The next morning, the members of the gang find him badly injured but still alive, and the lady spares his life despite his failure because he reminds her of her deceased son. She releases him from the gang. The movie ends with the scene of the cyclo driver, still contemplating the memory of his father, driving his cyclo with his grandfather and his two sisters on it through a crowded road of Ho Chi Minh City. – WIKIPEDIA.

The film is very Gritty, depressing, raw and poetic. filled with docu-style, realistic and Sumptuous photography by Benoit Delhomme, who also photographed Tran Anh Hung’s THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA.

In totality, Cyclo is filled with memorable moments, sad moments,  melancholy in the society of under-developing countries, and the daily life struggle of people living in worse conditions. Every city has a forgotten class of people, who exists in pathetic conditions and drive the whole machinery of a city. They do all the labor and menial services. Cyclo is a painting about those areas of the city. Film deals with the philosophy of nihilism and fatlism.

Special mention for the actress Tran Nu Yen Khe, who once again gave a marvelous performance after “The Scent of Green Papaya”.  married to the director Tran Anh Hung. She has been in all his films thus far, with the exception of Norwegian Wood. She is amazing and her performance rips your heart apart.




Cyclo is a must-must-see for cine-lovers.  On the question of working in different languages, Tran hung said –

“I’m dealing with one thing: it’s the language of cinema; it’s a nation by itself,” he says. “So no matter if it’s in English or Chinese, it’s not important. So when you’re working with a French actor or a Japanese actor or a Vietnamese actor, it’s the same thing. We’re talking the same language: the language of cinema. It doesn’t depend on the language that you’re speaking in the movie.”



– Gursimran Datla

( – References – Wikipedia, IMDB. )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s