Monday, March 3, 2008

Neorealism On The Hudson

It’s rare to come across a flawless filmmaker nowadays, but Ramin Bahrani just may be the closest thing America has to a modern day De Sica. First with “Man Push Cart,” his story about a one-time Pakistani rock star reduced to selling coffee from a push cart in Manhattan, and now with “Chop Shop,” which follows a Latino street kid hustling to survive via odd jobs while working at an auto-body repair shop in Queens, Bahrani has proved that simple stories about working class lives set against an epic urban and unforgiving backdrop can still pack just as much punch as when visionaries like Rossellini ruled the film world. Bahrani’s eye for exquisite composition acting as metaphor is astounding, his camerawork patient and probing, from close ups of weary sun drenched faces to long shots of empty warehouses in the rare still of night. When the wee protagonist of “Chop Shop” is forced to literally dismantle the dream he’s placed all his young hope in it’s against the background roar of cheering fans from Shea Stadium, the fluorescent lights seeming as far away as Rome.

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