Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

29 May 2012

Bicycles Are For The Summer

Mention "bicycle movies" or "movies with bicycles" and the first ones that come to most people's minds are Ladri di Biciclette (usually translated as The Bicycle Thief, but is literally Bicycle Thieves) and Breaking AwayBoth, I think, deserve their reputations, although BA is a bit more of a "feel-good" film than LdB.  

I've seen both more than once.   Seeing either one reminds me of what Robert Graves said about Shakespeare:  In spite of all the people who say he's very good, he really is very good.  

Anyway, there's a lesser-known (at least here in the US) bicycle film that I'd like to see again. Las Bicicletas Son Para El Verano (Bicycles Are For The Summer), released in 1985, was directed by Jaime Chavarri and based an eponymous play written by Fernando Fernan Gomez.  I have not seen the play, but it was well-reviewed.  I imagine it deserved those reviews if the film is in any way true to it.

The play and movie take place during the Spanish Civil War.  Luisito, the son of upper-middle-class Madrilenos Don Luis and Dona Dolores (Sorry, my keyboard doesn't have accent marks or tildes!)  wants a new bicycle, in spite of having failed his exams.  However, the war forces his parents to delay the purchase of his bicycle and that delay, like the war itself, drags on longer than any of them expected. 

More than anything, it's a story of survival and adaptation.  In that sense, it has more in common with LdB than with BA, although the dreams and hopes of one of the characters are as central to it as they are in BA.  I'll try not to give too much away in saying that, in time, Luisito has to abandon not only his hope of getting a bicycle, but his education and his dreams of becoming a writer, much as his father did.  Meanwhile, Luisito's sister Manolita has to abandon her dreams of becoming an actress after having a baby with a soldier who dies.  

Also, the story reveals class resentments between the family and their neighbors and friends but how, ultimately, they have to rely on each other in order to survive the privations of the war and the subsequent Franco regime.

Those of you who are fans of Pedro Almodovar will be interested in this film because it features one of the early appearances of an actress who would later star in several of his films:  Victoria Abril.

I don't know when I'll get to see the play.  But I'm sure there's a DVD of the film to be had somewhere.  The first chance I get, I'll watch it.


  1. I've been looking for a DVD with ENG subs for some time. If anyone has any idea where to find one, please help!

  2. Interesting, "Breaking Away" slipped into my mind just a few weeks back and I only ever saw it once when it was first released, chasing trucks used to be one of my favourite things so I identified...

    I see most movies at the cinema but have bought a copy of "Cycling with Alcest" which being literary, albeit in French, you might find amusing if only for the terrible bikes they ride and continuity errors to do with bikes which they must have put in to see if we were paying attention!

  3. Coline--It's funny that you mention "Breaking Away." I think it's the first movie about cycling most Americans saw. For some, it's still the only one.

    Thanks for the the tip about "Cycling with Alcest".