Muerte de un ciclista (1955)
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- Death of a Cyclist
- 88 min.
Juan Antonio Bardem
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Though Bardem's commentary on fascist Spain in his Death of a Cyclist is definitely worthy of critical discussion, the film works, first and foremost, as a paranoid Noir about a couple having an affair involved in a hit and run, "and run" because they don't want their relationship to be discovered. Lucia Bosè is a gorgeous presence as the selfish fatale in this drama, with Alberto Closas giving a strong, subtle performance as a man whose guilt over the event might as well be about the Spanish Civil War. Fear of discovery, in a police state, is a natural motivator here, and then there's the creepy blackmailer Rafa played with oozing brilliance by Carlos Casaravilla, who I am calling the Spanish Peter Lorre even if he's more insidiously about-town as a character. The theme of unfair, unilateral decision-making innate of fascist regimes pops up in the university subplot, but surprisingly, Closas' professor is not a victim so much as a perpetrator. Camera, lighting and editing stylistic flourishes aside, the film lives in fascist Spain, and uses its inequities as its setting. So our protagonists are privileged elites who tread on common people's lives, no matter how sympathetic they may seem to be in the "romantic thriller" plot. The ending provides a cyclical resolution (or bicyclical if you're into puns), the interpretation of which may be based on your own level of cynicism. Bardem has a character criticize the over-use of symbolism at one point, and he does so knowing his film is rich with it (he really doesn't mind going a little meta where he can), as that's how the Spanish mind works, at least the generation that was convinced to take arms against its brothers FOR symbols. And yet, if you know nothing about the world it was made in and for, Death of a Cyclist is still a great little Noir with European Neo-Realist inspirations.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #20 in Caimán's Top Spanish Films
This movie ranks #32 in Nickel Odeón's Best Spanish Films
This movie ranks #134 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Narrative Films
This movie ranks #451 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #722 in Doubling the Canon