Death of a Cyclist (1955)

23 04 2008

Bardem’s film will more than likely gather more than enough critical responses amounting to nothing more than Antonioni and/or Hitchcock comparisons, and rightfully so. For all the technical similarities with the great Antonioni, there’s a silly plot contrivance reminding one of Mr. Hitchcock. It should go with out saying that this is a bit of a mixed bag. A minimalist thriller could work as a categorization but then what becomes of the terrible Twilight Zone-y music. If one is looking for something Antonioni-esque than they have to accept the fact that the film is built more on occurrences than it is on character psychology. Similarly, if one is looking for a conventional mystery film, they’ll find something a bit more aesthetically complex. A decent movie, but the less believable elements are overwhelming; no matter how well they are photographed.

Maria and Juan’s affair hits a bump, figuratively and literally, when they kill a cyclist in a car accident. With no witnesses in sight, they flee, to avoid leaking their relationship to the public. However, they quickly develop overwhelming feelings of guilt. When a family “friend” begins to act suspiciously around Maria and Juan, feelings of paranoia set in with the couple. It seems that Maria can never get quite back on track with her home life. Meanwhile, Juan’s gig as an assistant professor is creating more inner friction. Eventually, both reach their breaking point but both deal with it in a different way.

Once again, Lucia Bose is a joy to watch. It is unfortunate that I have yet to stumble upon a truly great film featuring her but still, her presence is enough to engage even the least attentive of viewers. I will admit this film ultimately becomes too bogged down in plot details. An irritating scenario considering there is so much more room to flesh out the characters. However, we never get to know them beyond their initial reaction to the murder. There are attempts at being “deep” but it ultimately is just an excuse for melodramatic non-sense. On the other, such stuff is downplayed for most of the film’s running time but at the expense of completely unnatural writing. The dialogue is simply far too expositional, expressive, and frequent to feel true. In other words, this is sort of like if Eric Rohmer made a detective movie. Okay, maybe not that bad. Most of Bardem’s “cinematic” elements are more than admirable, especially considering that this predates Il Grido by two years. Still, this is a far cry from the “real thing.” With that said, I would like to take the time to commend Criterion for their efforts in releasing a, shall we say, “classic” film from Spain. Hopefully, within the next couple of years, more will be made available.

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