Man Push Cart (4 stars)

(15) 86min


If, as legendary CBS sportscaster Heywood Hale Broun (who, incidentally, died six days before 9/11) once proclaimed, ‘sweat is the cologne of accomplishment’, then Ahmad positively pongs. Between the New York refreshment cart, bootleg porn business and freelance decorating jobs, Ahmad is slowly working himself into an early grave on what seems to be a diet of cold beer and cigarettes.

Ahmad is, however, not just another invisible Pakistani servicing the needs of the Big Apple’s white collar hordes with coffees and bagels. Ahmad has a reason to work like a dog: he’s got secrets and half buried truths that only begin to simmer to the surface when he befriends a gamine Catalan girl Noemi (Leticia Dolera) - who works in a newsagent’s booth across the way from his speck.

Ramin Bahrani’s second feature builds on the slow unwinding Kiarostami-esque charm of his 2000 feature Strangers. Man Push Cart is the kind of tough, lean, uncompromising US indie filmmaking which is all too rare outside the cloisters of Sundance. Germinated from the earliest works of Loach and Cassavettes and hothoused through the films of urban masters Lodge Kerrigan and the Scorsese, Bahrani and gifted cinematographer Michael Simmonds have created a beguiling work of stillness, minimalism, brevity and disorientation. Part kooky love story, part dissection of Pakistani subcultures in post 9/11 New York and part loner sketch, Man Push Cart begs the question that if every job is a portrait of the person that does it, then what happens to the portrait when the work begins to overwhelm the man? This wonderful US indie is one of the best this year, up there with Junebug and Little Miss Sunshine.

GFT, Glasgow, from Fri 10 Nov-Mon 13 Nov only.