This weekend begins the 102nd year of Tour de France.
How time flies, when you’re on your bike… having fun.
I thought it was time to reflect on my five top films about cycling.
So pump up your tires, adjust your saddle, and park that beautiful bike you own, cause you might want to watch these films…
1. The Bicycle Thief (1948)
No cycling film list would be complete without Vitorrio de Sica’s classic Italian Neo-realist film The Bicycle Thief. It is hailed, from many a film list, as one of the best films ever made.
The film is set in post-war Rome, and we follow Antonio and his young son Bruno as they spend the day trying to track down Antonio’s stolen bike, which is needed to support his family. It’s a film full of non-professional actors that deliver brutally honest performances, heartfelt and with a social conscience.
2. Belleville Rendez-Vous (The Triplets of Belleville) (2003)
The super charming French animated comedy Belleville Rendez-Vous, often known as The Triplets off Belleville, is a uniquely animated film written and directed by Sylvian Chomet.
An elderly woman, Madame Souza, accompanied by her pet dog Bruno, sets off on a quest to rescue her grandson, who is a cyclist, on the Tour de France. He has been kidnapped by the French mafia, and brought to the bustling metropolis of Belleville.
3. The Kid with a Bike (2011)
The Kid with A Bike, written and directed by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, is told in their similar stripped-back fashion.
It’s the story of a boy who just wants a family. Abandoned by his father, he runs away from school to search for his bike (symbol of his lost relationship with his father). The local hairdresser, in a random act of kindness, fosters him on weekends, and tries to bring stability to his destructive behavior.
4. Jour de Fête (1949)
Jour de Fête is a delightful and visual comedy, with not much dialogue and a heavy use of sound effects. The story follows the mishaps of a French rural postman, François, directed and played by the wonderful Jaques Tati himself.
After watching a film on how the US postal system does things, François, after too many wines, goes to extremes to speed up his postal delivery, all while aboard his bicycle. One of the funniest scenes is when he accidentally joins a race of amateur cyclists and eventually ends up in the creek. It is a very clever satire about our dependence on technology.
5. A Sunday in Hell (1976)
The only documentary in this list, A Sunday in Hell covers the 1976 Paris-Roubaix race that runs along the quite famous hellish paved cobble stones of northern France that are nicknamed “the hell of the north” (hence the title). It opens with a beautiful sequence of a mechanic cleaning his bike. It features big name personalities in the film, such as Francesco Moser, Roger De Vlaeminck, and Eddy Merckx.
The film is directed by Jørgen Leth, who commentates the Tour de France each year on Danish television, and is also a mentor to film director Lars Von Trier. If you want to see a film that captures the real poetry of cycling, this one’s for you!