Death of a Cyclist

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Death of a Cyclist (1955) is a powerful film from Spain. I found this via serendipity as the image on the DVD box intrigued me. The Criterion Collection site offers a plot summary I can’t trump, so here that is:

Upper-class geometry professor Juan and his wealthy, married mistress, Maria José, driving back from a late-night rendezvous, accidentally hit a cyclist, and run. The resulting, exquisitely shot tale of guilt, infidelity, and blackmail reveals the wide gap between the rich and the poor in Spain, and surveys the corrupt ethics of a society seduced by decadence. Juan Antonio Bardem’s charged melodrama Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un ciclista) was a direct attack on 1950s Spanish society under Franco’s rule. Though it was affected by the dictates of censorship, its sting could never be dulled.

Compelling and intense, Lucia Bosé stars as Maria José, the stunning mistress who’s anxious about the black mail and incrimination she faces, while not worrying much about her responsibility for the death of the bicyclist. As the film progresses, the professor faces a career crisis caused by distraction due to his ruminating over the accident. As the university students lay siege to the administration building, the professor gains moral clarity which leads to a most surprising ending.

I liked that the story offered unpredictable plot turns. Lucia Bosé’s beauty and style were simple and captivating. The cinematography was bold and showed how black and white films can achieve more stunning results than color more often than not. I do wonder was Spain of the 1950s that immoral? How much of this is exaggeration?

I highly recommend Death of a Cyclist and I’ll look for more films with Bosé and directed by Juan Antonio Bardem.

The Way


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Emilio Estevez directs his father Martin Sheen in The Way, a touching movie about a father whose son dies suddenly as he just began a pilgrimage along El Camino a.k.a. the Way of St James (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Spain. Sheen plays Tom, a grieving suburban father, who is called to Spain to pick up his son’s remains.

Rather than return immediately to the US, Tom feels called to complete his son’s trek and sets out along El Camino planning to distribute his son’s ashes along the way. As the story unfolds, grouchy, taciturn Tom ponders his relationship with is son and meets three other hikers who join him, much to his own displeasure.

The photography is breathtaking and made me want to head out on this 500 mile journey. It seems like a rather jolly endeavor for most. According to the film, you walk along gentle slopes with beautiful vistas; you sleep in hostels, some of which were rather stark and grimy, but you feast on terrific food and wine. Not a bad life, huh?

The central story involved Tom reconciling with his dead son and therein lies the weakness of the film. By the end of the film, I had no better understanding of Daniel, the son, than I did at the start. Tom’s no chatterbox and deflects most questions about his son. When he speaks of his son, it’s in generalities. Daniel becomes a kind of Every Son, because all we know was he rebelled by ending his doctorate studies and taking to the road against his father’s will. Since Daniel was nearly 40 and wasn’t asking his father for anything, this isn’t so bad. Had Tom opened up more with his companions, perhaps the story would have been stronger.

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Still El Camino seems to be the star of the film and The Way is a pleasant enough way to experience it.