Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cycling Movies

There haven't been that many English-language dramatic movies about bicycling made since the 19th-century "Ritchie the Tramp Bicyclist" (1899, UK, silent).

The late screenwriter Steve Tesich wrote a couple of movies in the late 1970's and 1980's.

"Breaking Away" (1979) was an (I guess you'd say) "sweet" kind of coming-of-age movie, set in a small Midwest college town. One of a group of four friends gets caught up in the romance of bike racing and the movie follows him and his buddies through the changes of late adolescence. The protagonist is Dennis Christopher, backed up by a very young Dennis Quaid, 4 years before he found a broader audience in The Right Stuff. Here's the Netflix entry. Tesich won an Oscar for the Breaking Away screenplay. (Rating: 7.6, imdb)

(PS: Check out the poster at right: What's wrong with this picture?)

Six years later, Tesich wrote "American Flyers" (1985) starring Kevin Costner, 2 years before he found a broader audience with Untouchables, and Jennifer Grey. I haven't seen American Flyers, so I can't give you a personal plot synopsis, but here's what Internet Movie Database has to say: Sports physician Marcus persuades his unstable brother David to come with him and train for a bicycle race across the Rocky Mountains. He doesn't tell him that he has a cerebral tumor. While David powerfully heads for the victory, Marcus has to realize that the contest is now beyond his capabilities. / Features great views of the Rockies and an insight in the tactics of bicycle races. Here's the Netflix entry. (Rating: 5.9, imdb)

Now the movie that inspired this post: "The Flying Scotsman" (2006) starring Jonny Lee Miller and the versatile Scots actor Billy Boyd of Lord of the Rings fame. This is the fascinating true story of Graeme Obrey, the Scotsman who held two world records in the 1-hour track time trial (on a bike of his own design and fabrication) and was World Pursuit Champion in 1993 and 1995. This is a dramatic and engaging story that has it all: competition, desire, conflict (Obrey and the World Cycling Federation were in conflict for years over his unconventional methods and designs) and (even) mental instability. I wholly recommend this movie.

You'll note that I qualify in the first sentence of this posting the "English language". Let me warn you that (especially for the American ear) parts of the dialogue in Flying Scotsman in in such a thick brogue you may need to turn on the subtitles in English (yes, they have English subtitles in a Scottish movie!) Here's the Netflix entry. (Rating 7.1 imdb)


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