Wednesday, February 6, 2013

All Legs

Well, I finally watched the Triplets of Belleville. For those who have not seen it, this is a French animated film about cycling, music hall singers and sinister men in black - surreal and somewhat disturbing (in a good way). No subtitles required even if you do not understand French.

There are many fascinating details in this film, but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't watched it. Instead I just want to note one hilarious element: the caricatured cyclist's body.

Ah, the gaunt, emaciated cyclist. Sunken eyes, protruding cheekbones. Head bobbing up and down as if the straining tendons of the neck can barely support it. Hunched back and shoulders. Spaghetti arms. Non-existent waist, narrow hips... And then, suddenly - bang! An explosion of thigh muscle, bulge upon bulge, tapering at the knees before exploding again into freakishly well defined calves. I have seen such exaggerated renderings before, but none as expressively done as in this film. The half-soulful, half-dead look on Champion's face completes the archetype.

I have now met a few real-life cyclists with similar body types. They disguise it surprisingly well when wearing regular clothing, but once in lycra the leg explosion is revealed. Seeing such marvelously distorted proportions in person, I try not to stare. But it's kind of awesome, and awe-inspiring. Gives "all legs" a new meaning.

PS: You can tell it's winter, because I'm falling prey to cycling movies. Any recommendations besides the usual suspects? For now, I'll just have to live with "Belleville Rendez-Vous" stuck in my head...

71 comments:

  1. Premium Rush just came out on DVD. Danny McCaskill did some stunt work there.

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    1. The movie isn't smart but it's fun. You just need to not think too hard about it. If you watch it with intent to snark it will be too easy and you'll feel ashamed of how mean you are.

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    2. I saw PR in a theater just a few weeks after being released from the hospital with a new hip, which was occasioned by a pickup that ran a stop sign. If I'd seen Premium Rush any earlier, I would likely have developed PTSD. Not a great movie, but a heck of a lot of fun!

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  2. The movie is an animation delight. Wonderful images and references.

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  3. How about riding to a Sufferfest video and telling us your thoughts on it?

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  4. There is no dialog, as you point out. But there is a subtitle option. I watched teh movie with it on, wondering why. Then, for just a moment, coming out of a radio was some sports announcer commenting on the tour. It was sub titled. That was it.

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  5. If you look at professional track cyclists, they all are "all legs" types.

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  6. "The Flying Scotsman" is a favorite. I particularly like the realistic portrayal of the UCI President at that time; we have seen a lot more of Hein Verbruggen since the Obree affair and his quality of character is consistent.
    ..... but still a fun, kind of schmaltzy cycling movie.

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  7. Not cycling related, but if you liked Triplets, you may also enjoy The Illusionist. A very thoughtful and sensitive movie. Same director and animators.

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    1. I'll second that recommendation. The Illusionist is one of the most beautifully animated films I've ever seen.
      ...and judging by the weather you've got coming this weekend, you will probably have time to watch each and every one of these recommendations.

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  8. I just watched the clip again; yup I kinda hate it. The cumulative effect of all that lewd caricature is orgiastic, defeating and ultimately fatiguing.

    There is fantastic animation, but the American English-enunciated aforementioned song sticks in my craw like some dessicated ersatz Franco-experience (mixed metaphors who cares it's the web).

    Too outre, not enough soul. The Fred Astaire parody was beyond insulting.

    Other than that I looved it.

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  9. I've always wanted to know the underlying political message of this film, I can sense it is there. I just would like to hear from someone –like a grandparent or parent, good at storytelling because they were there, not because they can just simply google it– to hear it from a wiser Parisian perspective.

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  10. Quicksilver, starring Kevin Bacon!

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  11. "Any recommendations besides the usual suspects?"
    Try "Mr Beans holiday" ;?)

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  12. Fantastic! I've been telling you this for what, three years?

    Bruno is my hero.

    Also, Django might have been in love with Josephine Baker.

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  13. Jules et Jim, while not a cycling movie per se, has a lovely bicycle scene in it. In fact, several French new wave and Italian neorealist films feature bicycles here and there. I Ladri di Biciclette, of course, which is not really about bicycles. But then again, neither is Breaking Away (and other films that feature bicycles) really about bicycles. Bicycles are vehicles, in a sense, in more ways than one. Triplets of Belleville looks very intriguing! The true genius of film these days is to be found in animated form, in my opinion.

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  14. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IB7517_ypI

    This film is great! Danish, not sure if available in English. the story is hillarious acting a bit weak in some places but it does not matter at all!!

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  15. Jour De Fête (1949, French), a comedy starring Jacques Tati, as the well-meaning but inept postal carier who who stirs up all kinds of trouble on his bicycle. You won't believe what happens next!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICQSTjeeRIw

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    1. This is a GREAT film! (Tati + bicycles....how could you go wrong?)

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    2. Jour de Fete is also available in the Thomsoncolor original, you just have to figure out how to play Region 2 DVD.

      I first saw this one about 1965, age 13 in the sticky collapsing seats of Chicago's great, lamented Clark Theatre, surrounded by snoring Skid Row winos, Continuous repertoire for 25 cents. Saw most of the other old ones mentioned here too, the Tati stood out. And then they reclaimed the color print. Heaven.

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    3. It’s good when anonymouses agree. It is a great movie! The funny bicycle stuff is more in the latter part of movie, but the whole movie is really good. And nobody rides a roadster more upright than Tati! He’s got skills! And I thought the images of post-war France late-1940s are very interesting.

      Incidentally the Youtube link I provided is to the full-length movie. Sorry not the epic color version. Black and white, but good resolution.

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    4. Good 1940s photo of Tati and his bicyclette:

      http://bibeim.tumblr.com/post/22317459974/jacques-tati-by-robert-doisneau

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    5. Tati rocks. So much better.

      Modern life I'd so disassociated and pell mell, illustrated by the pell mell nature of Chomet's callow interpretation.

      Tati is just so much mo better.

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  16. hardihood - far, far away from cobble stone racing in B/W. it's a bit like skateboard culture and women meeting each other - on bicycle.
    anyway, one of my favorites.

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  17. While I've not had opportunity to see the movie, I did take time to watch the clip you posted from YouTube. I can see why you have that song stuck in your head and, as an admirer of Gypsy Jazz, I find it very catchy. One little part of the clip even had a caricature of Django Reinhardt! Looks like a fun movie for a cold evening.

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  18. Have you seen 2 Secondes? Best scene in a bike shop *ever*.

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    1. "Are you shopping for bicycles or are you shopping for prices?"

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  19. I've seen this flick no less than 6 times. See it again and again; it's amazing what you miss the first time around.

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  20. Sylvan Chomet is reportedly currently working on a prequel to the Triplets of Belleville, called Swing Popa Swing.

    I love the richness of the details in that film -- including the many cycle sport caricatures and tributes: Champion grows to resemble Coppi, the other kidnapped racers have elements of Anquetil and Merckx.

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  21. My winter watch stream fest (Netflix and Hulu) of this past week-end was:
    “Ride the Divide”
    “Nova: Wright Brothers Flying Machine" (bike related)
    “Portlandia: Bike Rider” (short clip)

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  22. Because of my daughter, I watched a movie named, "Now and Then". I think the portrayal of riding bike in this movie was the closest to my experience, both as a child and as an adult. She played it over and over.
    The movie is about 12 year old girls in 1970. They travel by bike, with complete freedom to go where ever they want. Since riding the bike is not the focus of the story, it is shown as an experience of freedom and joy. I believe the movie was released in the early 1990's.

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  23. I can't think of anything but the obvious ones, but here's a Polish joke to amuse you:
    A man is fishing at a river. Suddenly, an Englishman emerges from the water.
    "Excuse me, can you tell me how far it is to Slupsk?"
    The fisherman is startled but tells him it's about three miles.
    "Thank you" and then the Englishman disappears under water again.
    Then the fisherman realizes he's given incorrect information. Splashing the water he shouts "Mr. Englishman! Mr. Englishman!" The Englishman emerges from the water again.
    "What is it?"
    "I told you wrong. It's not three miles, it's five!"
    "Oh, that's all right. I'm on a bicycle."

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  24. We love 6 Day Bike Rider, starring Joe E. Brown. It's a 1934 film comedy about the 6 day bike races, but it's difficult to find a copy.

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  25. The usual suspects is about biking? :)

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  26. Did you see french movie Parpaillon? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD2JLg3-9_M

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    1. Great, thank you! This is a better link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=TQEUuJpY3fU

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  27. Breaking Away, The Flying Scotsman, Quicksilver, American Flyers, The Bicycle Thief, Rad, Pee Wee's Big Adventure and, if you can find it, Tracks of Glory which was an Australian mini-series done in the early 1990's about Major Taylor's time racing in there in the 1890's.

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  28. Really like Triplets of Belleview. From Mamma's training of Champion to why the dog barks at trains it's a great movie. I've not seen it but I'm told The Bicycle Thief is good too.

    As for pro cyclists being all legs - Not all. Check out those track cyclists known for explosive sprints. I've had the pleasure to BRIEFLY (and I do mean briefly as he left me for dust) ride with Nelson Vails. Guy's built like a football player as much as a cyclist.

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  29. Can't leave Ladri Di Biciclette out of this list. Especially with a crowd that understands "not sport, transport."

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  30. I don't remember much cycling in the Usual Suspects. I'd recommend Breaking Away. It is my favorite movie!

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  31. did i miss it? could someone list the 'obvious ones?'

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  32. Love how the old lady manager "tunes" the bicycle wheel harmonically. Off the top of my head I can only remember Il Postino, which is not a cycling movie but the postman delivers the mail on a bike.

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  33. The Italian 'neo-realist' classic 'The Bicycle Thief' by Vittorio de Sica.

    Finian

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  34. There's also "Il Postino".
    One should read the Wikipedia on Pablo Neruda before watching it, or at least know who he was.

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  35. 'Ladri di Biciclette' - in English either 'The Bicycle Thief' or 'Bicycle Thieves' is a wonderful film centered around a missing bicycle.

    Spent one summer during my college years working the back order aisle at a factory about 16 miles from my dorm. My sole transportation at the time was an 80s vintage Basso. Work involved my climbing ladders all day and pushing heavy carts laden with metal doodads. Weekends my friends and I spent riding the back roads of central Illinois.

    Perhaps not quite so exaggerated as the character above, but by the end of the summer my legs were definitely much more robust than the rest of me.

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  36. Is Summer in Andalusia one of the usual suspects? I see it on some, but not all, of the lists of bike-related films.

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  37. Cyclomania, it's a movie about a love triangle with road racing as a backdrop.

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  38. I have the DVD of this movie and I never tire of it. The animation is amazing in an old world sort of way and the music is to die for. Try Caravan Palace for a more modern version of this kind of Django Reinhardt influenced Gipsy Jazz. You can find alot of this type of music in southern France. I love how the triplets go "fishing".
    Emile

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  39. In no particular order...

    ~Stars and Water Carriers
    ~Pee Wee's Big Adventure
    ~Breaking Away
    ~American Flyers
    ~Ghislan Lambert's Bicycle
    ~The Bicycle Thief
    ~The Flying Scotsman
    ~Quicksilver
    ~Ride the Divide
    ~Nine Ball Diaries

    Enjoy!

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  40. Check out two flicks on YouTube about Mark Beaumont. Links and reviews here:
    http://anniebikes.blogspot.com/2012/11/three-bike-themed-movies.html

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  41. I can't remember if it is a "bicycle movie" overall, but Danny Kaye singing "Everything is Tickety-boo" in the movie Merry Andrew - here's the youtube link:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzVCahrtaWI

    always brings a smile.

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  42. Bicycle Thieves (is that a usual suspect?)
    Beijing Bicycle

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  43. Yay! I fell in love with your blog - with no better timing to boot!
    I am currently a fairweather rider and am craving my old bike commute to work but I just can't muster up the will power to get my ass out there in the cold :S Your posts are really inspiring, maaaaybe, just maybe I'll get back on the wire donkey next week <3

    http://clickingkeys.blogspot.ca/

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  44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbvwN0dreBw
    Best part of the Mr Bean film.

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  45. 'The 39 Steps'. Nice cycling scene through the Scottish countryside.

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  46. Ride The Divide; follows 4-5 cyclists, one the first woman to complete the course of the the Tour Divide.

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  47. "Ride The Divde;" follows 4-5 riders of the Tour Divide including the first woman to complete it. Very inspiring with wonderful photography.

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    1. I second this one, we just watched it this weekend. And compared to Race Across America (another film we watched recently, about the eponymous race), these guys look really sane.

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  48. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YpNAKCIWt8 check this out, the first saudi arabian movie and its been shot by a woman too! Moving story about a girl who wants to ride with a boyfriend in a country where girls are not allowed to bike in public!

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  49. BMX Bandits. It launched Nicole Kidman's career.

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    1. this is super cool, I can't believe NK started in a movie like this.

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  50. Flying Scotsman - two thumbs up.

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  51. I suggest "Je Reste!", a frivolous French film which tries to take on the thorny subject of what can go horribly wrong in your life as a result of too much cycling. (I know, I know...)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kM4ofwZxvNg

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  52. You must see "Le vélo de Gilain Lambert" a belgian tragy-comedy about pro cycling

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  53. Here's a fun one most people have already seen:
    L'Homme Qui Vivait Sur Son Vélo !
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adUayg63Uu0

    Here's one most people haven't seen:
    ROULE TOUJOURS
    http://www.dubfilms.fr/roule_toujours.html

    -vélocia

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    1. Roule Toujours is a really lovely film . I have never seen it before, thankyou for the opportunity .

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    2. reminds me of the documentary serie "strip-tease".

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  54. Not the usual suspects:

    Stars and Watercarriers
    A Sunday in Hell
    Blood, Sweat + Gears: Racing Clean to the Tour De France
    2 Seconds
    Red Light Go
    Offroad to Athens
    Hell on Wheels

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  55. When I saw that caricature, I thought of what Cruella De Ville might look like on a bicycle.

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