Whenever anybody asks me “what are your favourite films”, when my answer is proffered I’m usually met with a blank stare akin to a dog being shown a card trick. Along with the likes of Fargo, Being John Malkovich and Easy Rider, one of the first names out of my mouth is usually Breaking Away.
Trying to explain to non-cyclists why this film means so much to me is no easy task. Even other cyclists who may not have heard of the 1979 Oscar winner for Best Screenplay seem perplexed and unable to grasp the concept of a teen coming-of-age film featuring that rarity of Hollywood filmdom, a *gasp* cyclist.
And that’s all that Breaking Away is. It’s not a cycling film, not a fly on the wall doco like A Sunday In Hell or Hell On Wheels. In fact it’s completely bereft of hell in any form. To me it’s heaven, sometimes on wheels, sometimes in Mike’s Buick, sometimes in the swimming hole at the old abandoned limestone quarry.
I could go on about the classic scenes and lines from the film, like the pump in the spokes, drafting the truck or Dave’s Italophile obsessions. But those who have seen the film will know these already, and those who haven’t, well I wouldn’t want to spoil your impending viewings.
But I will admit to this; I actually have been close to tears on one of my many, many viewings, while introducing it to a girlfriend, who must’ve been somewhat bemused by a grown man getting emotional about some loser teenagers winning some stupid bike race. And I’m not ashamed of that, because it is really so much more.
When Cyril is being jostled by the adoring masses at the end of the Little 500, the look of acceptance, of achievement which washes over his face, an expression made possible by the simple act of riding a bicycle, that to me is one of the great cinematic moments. One I will enjoy over and over again, thirty years on and counting.
For a comprehensive look at everything Breaking Away, check out this site.
And the original trailer here.