July 13 2014 marked the 35th anniversary of the seminal ‘cycling film’ Breaking Away. 35 years. Nothing stays popular for that long, right? Things get dated, lose their edge (if there was edge in the first place) and eventually become irrelevant (I’m looking at you, Rolling Stones). Yes, even legends get stale if left out too long.
On paper, Breaking Away has all the potential to join the ranks of the forgotten, the antiquated and embarrassing. But somehow, it keeps delivering not only entertainment but a real and honest story about real and honest characters. They’re like old friends who’ve been away for years but keep popping up every once in a while, and haven’t changed a bit.
I got to meet up with old friends both real and on screen in the last few weeks when I headed back to my native country and the town I grew up in. It was like a trip back in time, most of it spent re-living the things we used to do by doing them again. Watching films was one of the ways we conjured morsels from our aging memories, a bit of Mad Max here, some Monty Python there. And Breaking Away.
I don’t remember how it came up (that aging memory letting me down again), but in a flash the impulsive son-of-a-gun who is the K-Man had the torrents fired up and Mike’s familiar singing voice was wafting through the speakers. “In the parking lot, at the A & P…” Now, sharing your tastes with others, whether it’s film, music or food is oftentimes fraught with risk, sometimes outright danger. And while K-Man and I share a lot of common ground, there’s always bound to be things that polarises one or both. I was sure that we wouldn’t even get to witness Dave meet Katerina. I was trying to gauge the reactions, but I was too engrossed, for the umpteenth time, by the magic of the characters and storyline.
Not only did we make it past the serenading, the Italians and Mooch punching various objects and people before I had to leave, but upon return I was less surprised than anticipated to learn that K-Man had made it all the way to the end, and actually enjoyed it (I know this because I put him to an impromptu quiz on details of the Little 5oo).
Breaking Away still resonates with me as it did when I wrote this article back in 2009, and no doubt will continue to do so well beyond the day my memory can no longer locate my keys.