19 September 2015

A "Breaking Away" Reunion

I'm not a religious person.  Not really.  I was raised a Roman Catholic and was--OK, here's my most shocking confession to date--an Evangelical Christian for a time, when I was in college.

Then I didn't go to church for more than three decades. (I went into churches, mosques, synagogues and temples to look at art, hear music and attend weddings, funerals and all of those other things most of us attend under duress.  That's not the same as going to church!)  Finally, about two years ago, after someone's suggestion, I started attending church again for a time.  I got over that.  Now here I am again, without religion.

I mention my history of faith--or, more precisely, lack thereof--because I still believe in the concept of sin.  To me, the US invasion of Iraq is a sin.  So is any other form of genocide.  I would add slavery and any form of personal mendacity (though I am not without guilt!) to the list.

Oh, and here are two other sins, at least in my book:  remakes and sequels.  At least, that's what they are most of the time.  Thankfully, no one has been depraved enough to try to remake Citizen Kane, The Godfather (The Godfather, Part 2 is one notable exception to what I've said about sequels), Casablanca, La Grande Illusion or Ladri di Biciclette.

Or Breaking AwayAt least, no one has mentioned the "r" word.  If anyone had mentioned it, surely it would have been heard at the Interbike show this week, where Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher and Jackie Earle Hayley--three of the four "Cutters" from the movie--reunited.  Daniel Stern, who played the goofy, lanky Cyril, was the only one missing.

Dennis Christopher at Interbike, 17 September 2015. Photo by Jason Ogulnik, published in the Las Vegas Journal-Review.

Although Quaid became, arguably, the most famous of the quartet, Christopher's character--the wannabe Italian bicycle racer Dave Stoller--is the most memorable of the film.  I'd daresay he's one of the most memorable characters in all of filmdom.

One way you know that Breaking Away is, in its own way, a masterpiece is that it resonated even with people who've never had any desire to ride a bike.  Some have compared it to Rocky (which, I think, is a better movie than most highbrow critics are willing to admit), but I think it's both sweeter and more complex.  For one thing, there are so many subplots--about social class, generational conflicts and about youthful dreams vs. parents' aspirations for their children.  It also showed, interestingly, Dave's parents rekindling their sexual lives in late middle age.  That might be an even more radical thing to include in a film today than it was in 1979, when Breaking Away appeared in movie theatres.

Steve Tesich is the screenwriter who wove all of those elements into what I believe to be one of the best screenplays ever written. How many other screenwriters have written something that became both a film and a movie, appreciated by film critics and movie reviewers as well as general audiences?

He died in 1996, at the age of 53.  Anyone who tries to remake Breaking Away will incur his wrath. (As if I would know about that!)



  1. The "Cutter" that "Dave Stoller" was based upon (Dave Blase) appeared in the movie and is still around.

  2. Steve--I wonder whether he has ever reunited with the actors.

  3. One of my all time favorite films. The film is 36 years old now, but still makes me feel like a kid.

  4. Brooks--I think that's one of the film's great appeals. No matter your age, you feel like a kid when you see it, or see it again.

  5. I must confess, I have not seen the film but intend to. On a different note, I feel better that I am not the only one that goes to church and then quits - I just can't get with the program. My spouse is religious, so I am going to have to at least give him a ride there soon.