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Death of a Cyclist

Lucia Bosé , Alberto Closas , Juan Antonio Bardem    Unrated   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful thriller about morality and class Oct. 3 2011
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
A mix of noir psychological thriller and political examination of class and privilege
in Franco's Spain, this reminded me as much as anything of Antonioni's `Story of a Love
Affair', although I liked this even more. For me there were more thematic and emotional
levels explored in more interesting ways.

The film is beautifully made with a striking use of transitions to keep us off base, and
an alternating mix of neo-realist, and slick Hitchcockian camera work that evokes the
separation of class in society.

The story is simple. A pair of upper-class lovers accidentally hit a cyclist on the highway,
and leave him to die, for fear of being discovered as lovers and losing all they have in society
and with each other.

The rest of the film is about both the moral questions of responsibility and ego versus a sense
of communal responsibility, and the gut wracking tension as to whether the two will
be discovered.

I was occasionally bothered by the heavy handedness of some of the film. Sometimes it
was just a too on-the-nose politically ironic line, but particularly an important sub-plot
about a student the male half of our anti-hero couple, has treated unfairly. This sub-plot,
while beautifully shot and well acted, feels like it exists only to make political and thematic
points, and pulled me out of identifying with the film on a human level. Likewise, a couple
of crucial character twists, while interesting, feel forced or sudden -- more there to make a
point then to honestly continue the narrative.

But these are small flaws compared to the film's great strengths, and it is very much worth seeing.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful thriller about morality and class Oct. 3 2011
By K. Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A mix of noir psychological thriller and political examination of class and privilege
in Franco's Spain, this reminded me as much as anything of Antonioni's `Story of a Love
Affair', although I liked this even more. For me there were more thematic and emotional
levels explored in more interesting ways.

The film is beautifully made with a striking use of transitions to keep us off base, and
an alternating mix of neo-realist, and slick Hitchcockian camera work that evokes the
separation of class in society.

The story is simple. A pair of upper-class lovers accidentally hit a cyclist on the highway,
and leave him to die, for fear of being discovered as lovers and losing all they have in society
and with each other.

The rest of the film is about both the moral questions of responsibility and ego versus a sense
of communal responsibility, and the gut wracking tension as to whether the two will
be discovered.

I was occasionally bothered by the heavy handedness of some of the film. Sometimes it
was just a too on-the-nose politically ironic line, but particularly an important sub-plot
about a student the male half of our anti-hero couple, has treated unfairly. This sub-plot,
while beautifully shot and well acted, feels like it exists only to make political and thematic
points, and pulled me out of identifying with the film on a human level. Likewise, a couple
of crucial character twists, while interesting, feel forced or sudden -- more there to make a
point then to honestly continue the narrative.

But these are small flaws compared to the film's great strengths, and it is very much worth seeing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There is such a thing as society Sept. 25 2010
By technoguy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Criterion's release of film's of long-ago classics of film-making continues.This film by Bardem is a black and white morality tale by a communist director in a country with a fascist dictatorship,whose censorship had crippled the art of cinema and any progressive analysis of the situation.This is film as political weapon hidden under the cloak of metaphor.His call to arms,issued at Salamanca in 1955,is to his fellow directors.The film opens with lovers Juan (Alberto Closas) and Maria José (Lucia Bosé). Maria is behind the wheel of her car, colliding (unseen) into a man(also,tellingly,unseen)bicycling on a lonely stretch of country road.This pivotal moment highlights the divisions between the rich and the poor.The lovers pull up see the dying man and she calls Juan away.The faster they flee,the more the act follows them.This film has content:morality, conscience,guilt,fear of loss of status.Bardem shows us the rot at the core of Spanish ruling class life as if in a Jacobean tragedy.He uses neo-noir elements,post-neo-realism cum Hitchcockian melodrama.

She is a society hostess married to the rich man, Miguel(similar looking to Juan).She loves her creature comforts, but also her infidelity with Juan,a professor of maths,who she used to be engaged to prior to marriage. He is economically and professionally dependent upon his wealthy brother-in-law,who got him the job.The viper in their bosom is Rafael,the parasitical art critic and court jester,who divulges he `knows' about them,having seen them that day in the car together,and threatens blackmail.His sarcasm and irony heats up a brew of satire,revenge, paranoia and suspicion.Bardem brings this to a head with a brilliant nightclub flamenco scene with the trio-cutting from face to face as the music drowns out the dialogue-more entangled in the web.Juan is the moral force in the film,with his disturbance at seeing the headline of the cyclist's death,causing him to fail a female student unjustly,leading to student revolts for his resignation.Egoism and the cult of self are attacked,the selfishness of the lovers.Maria fears Rafa knows about the bicycle accident.Juan sees the poverty of the cyclist's environment,pretending to be a reporter.He desires to confess to the police and asks Maria to join him.He is inspired by the `selfless solidarity' of the students to give up his old way of life,his job,Maria,to come clean: Bardem's call to Spain.Maria thinks otherwise, with tragic consequences.

The film is closer to Antonioni's Cronica di un amore,also starring Lucia Bose,as a wealthy lover drawn to the comforts of wealth,but wrenched by her hand in murder.Both directors were forging a new language of cinema with international credentials.Barden aims to "bear testimony to our time",shares with Antonioni dramatic ellipsis,the power of suggestion.However he is forced by the censors to alter the ending,which seems jarring in tone from the rest of the film,but is there to prove a political and moral point about the goodness of the working classes.Is Bardem Marxist warrior or cultural prisoner?I loved especially the contrast between the scenes of wintry Madrid and barren countryside in contrasat to the rich villa interiors.There are good features,Calle Bardem a documentary on the revolutionary director, by fellow writers/directors.There is a booklet with a critical essay by scholar Marsha Kinder and Bardem's call to arms for Spanish cinema.If you like this see Headless Woman too.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decadence is beautiful Oct. 27 2008
By Manuel Pestalozzi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful black and white movie with beautiful people. Its undisputed star, Italian actress Lucia Bose, plays exactly the same character like in Michelangelo Antonioni's "Cronada di un amore" - a dissatisfied egotistical trophy wife of a captain of industry and trade. The noirish plot (cover up of an accident by the Bose character and her lover) gets a political slant as the distracted lover, a mathematician shoved into a position at university by influential relatives, does not pay attention to a woman student and let her fail at an exam. This leads to (comparatively tame) student riots in which the (stunningly well groomed) students ask for the lover's head. The dissatisfaction with social conditions in Spain of the 1950 permeates this movie. The settings in wintry Madrid (and surroundings) will haunt the viewer for a long time. The final scenes are pretty campy but the overall impression is a good one.
4.0 out of 5 stars Life was not so good in Franco's Spain April 24 2009
By Douglas Setter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
For those who like the old artsy black and white movies. Juan is a college professor who lacks ambition that his wealthy family expects. Juan just drifts along with his job as a college professor and his affair with a wealthy mistress. One day, while driving with his mistress, she runs down a cyclist. Rather than save the injured man's life, they leave to protect their dirty little secret. Juan visits the family of the dead cyclist and is amazed at the poverty where the dead man came from. As the guilt builds up in the Macbeth tradition, a sleazy character starts black mailing the mistress Maria. Meanwhile, Juan unjustly fails a student due to his own distracted mind. The disillusioned Juan finally decides to clear his conscience by confessing everything. His mistress is not so keen on losing everything. The movie is really a commentary about the poverty under Franco's rule. A good story.

--Doug Setter author of Stomach Flattening and One Less VictimStomach FlatteningOne Less Victim: A Prevention Guide
4.0 out of 5 stars Death of a Cyclist July 28 2008
By MarkusG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Death of a Cyclist, from 1955, is a thriller and a moral drama. Two lovers, Juan and Maria, accidentally hit a cyclist with their car, and have to flee the crime scene afraid of their illicit affair being revealed. They are part of high society: Maria is the wife of a very rich man, and Juan is a math professor, and they decide they have very much to lose: each other and their social status. Early on they get hints from another man that he knows, but exactly what he knows and what he wants is unclear.
The plot is very suspensive and contains some twists reminiscent of Hitchcock; the camerawork is competent, though the acting is maybe a little stiff (maybe typical for 1950s cinema?).
The moral dimension is interesting, with Juan who sees himself as a failure, economically and professionally, as he is dependent on influental relatives. The accident and his moral failure makes him re-evaluate his life. And Maria is confronted with her strong desire for status. In the films opening scene they choose to leave the cyclist in the ditch, dying.
The transfer from Criterion is excellent, and there are some extras: a documentary about Bardem and a informative booklet. The film is said to be a standard ingredient in cinema studies, and finally it is available on DVD. Recommended to everyone interested in cinema, and/or some suspense.
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