Saturday, August 27, 2011

City... Cranks & Cinema!


Since getting back on a bike, I find myself spending a bit of time looking for books and films related to life on two wheels. Just as the title suggests, here are some cinematic triumphs you may want to look into. The emphasis in these films, for me, is real life... really living... on a bicycle. There are lots of other films focusing on bicycling as a sport. This short list includes none of those films. I'm not interested in me... on a bike... as a sporting event, although I must admit to enjoying sport bicycling as a spectator. But I'm, personally, more interested in bikes as a part of daily life (at work and play). Anyway, this is my list of top films with bicycles as an integral part of the the plot or p.o.v.

Bicycle Thieves:
This '40s Italian Neo-Realist film is extraordinary. The film is about, and was filmed on location in, post-WWII Italy. Without giving too much away, it involves a war-torn family, a job requiring a bike, and the different ways class impacted Italian nationals directly after the war ended. I don't think there will ever be a finer bicycle film made... in any country or era.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure:
This '80s uber-classic must be the cult favorite of all who either love the '80s, love their bikes... or both. If you haven't seen this film (and you are USAmerican), you ought to beat yourself about the face and head. Yeah... it's surrealist comedy... not real life. But it's close. And who could resist Pee Wee's antics? Certainly not this bicyclist.

This is another Italian film set during and just after WWII. It is a contemporary period film which touches on class systems... the effect the Roman Catholic faith and hardcore Nationalism had on the people of the time... and a boy becoming a young man (among other things). It's not about a bike, but the point-of-view of the main character is most often from the saddle of his two-wheeler.

Beijing Bicycle:
This is a Chinese-made film which touches on many of the themes covered in Bicycle Thieves. It's not as good as the best bicycle film of all-time, but it's interesting to see how little the world (and humans, in general) has changed. Seeing the sheer amount of bicyclists in this film is mind-blowing. The depiction of a bicycle as a means to earn a living, an efficient commuting machine, a status symbol, and a "toy" adds much where the direct narrative is lacking.

And that is "my" update for the month of August.

Happy viewing!


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