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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Man Push Cart (review)

If you’ve forgotten — or never known — the rhythm and grace that cinema can sing with, then please, for your own sanity, see Man Push Cart, and rediscover how achingly lovely a film can be. A happy movie this isn’t, but it is poetically, even mythologically tragic: writer/director Ramin Bahrani likens the plight of his hero, Ahmad, to that of Sisyphus, doomed to roll a boulder up a hill again and again for all eternity, and that’s the heavy-hearted mood his debut feature film evokes, in the most exquisite way possible. Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi) is a Pakistani immigrant to New York City who works selling breakfast — pastries and coffee and such — to Manhattan office workers out of a cart that he hauls to a high-traffic street corner every morning. New Yorkers will be familiar with men like Ahmad, will have seen them pushing and pulling these aluminum carts — they’re like tiny shops, really — around the city, but even most of us don’t ever get any closer than asking for a schmear on our bagels; we are all Ahmad’s unnamed morning regulars. But Ahmad comes alive for us in a way that makes him universal, a man whose dreams swell and burst as opportunities come and go, a man whose life expands and contracts as new friends delight or disappoint him. New York, too, becomes a place both mysterious and perilous, all strange lights and anonymous intimacy, and if it seems that cinematographer Michael Simmonds shot the film like he was making love to the city, dark side and all, well, you may fall in love with it, and with Ahmad, too.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb

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