Kermis: Breaking Away

Kermis: Breaking Away

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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.

Slideshow:
Fullscreen:

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.

Original article here…

// Kermis // Nostalgia // Reverence

  1. Ciao Papa!

  2. That movie and this community encapsulate everything I love about cycling. @brett, the accompanying drawings are great.  I hadn’t seen those before.

  3. Ooof, the scene where he gets a frame pump shoved into the spokes makes me wince even thinking about it.

  4. @RedRanger

    Ciao Papa!

    “I’m not your papa I’m your God-damned father”

     

    At the risk of being branded a heretic,what makes “Breaking Away” a good movie isn’t that it’s a movie about cycling, it’s a coming-of-age movie that happens to use cycling as a plot device, so it has a much broader appeal. Compare it to “American Flyers” (ironically by the same screenwrite) which tried to make cycling the central focus and ended up almost a prody of itself.

    Having said that, Breaking Away is almost solely responsible for getting me into cycling; seeing it as part of a high school English class, when I was but a skinny youth  totally unsuited for and uninterested in the dominant ball sports everyone else around me was into, finding something I could claim as my own (I actually revelled in being that weird kid with the shaved legs; if people think you’re eccentric you can get away with so much more…) made a lifetime difference to me.

  5. @DavidI

    @RedRanger

    Ciao Papa!

    “I’m not your papa I’m your God-damned father”

    At the risk of being branded a heretic,what makes “Breaking Away” a good movie isn’t that it’s a movie about cycling, it’s a coming-of-age movie that happens to use cycling as a plot device, so it has a much broader appeal. Compare it to “American Flyers” (ironically by the same screenwrite) which tried to make cycling the central focus and ended up almost a prody of itself.

    Having said that, Breaking Away is almost solely responsible for getting me into cycling; seeing it as part of a high school English class, when I was but a skinny youth totally unsuited for and uninterested in the dominant ball sports everyone else around me was into, finding something I could claim as my own (I actually revelled in being that weird kid with the shaved legs; if people think you’re eccentric you can get away with so much more…) made a lifetime difference to me.

    Spot on about the movie themes.  It was jr. high for me, when my last failed attempt at organized sports and the influence of “Breaking Away” and LeMan coincided.

  6. “What’s your major?”

  7. It’s a damned good story about important things like growing the fuck up and being the person you want to be in the context of changing geographic and economic realities. And riding a fucking bike.

  8. @Optimiste

    That movie and this community encapsulate everything I love about cycling. @brett, the accompanying drawings are great. I hadn’t seen those before.

    They’re fantastic eh. Check out more of Steve’s work here…

    http://velopaintgallery.blogspot.co.nz/

    @DavidI

    At the risk of being branded a heretic,what makes “Breaking Away” a good movie isn’t that it’s a movie about cycling, it’s a coming-of-age movie that happens to use cycling as a plot device, so it has a much broader appeal. Compare it to “American Flyers” (ironically by the same screenwrite) which tried to make cycling the central focus and ended up almost a prody of itself.

    Spot on, I think I said similar in the original article. The scenes that resonate with me aren’t especially the cycling but the comradeship of the guys, Dave’s family interactions and the travails of growing up.

  9. @Owen argh.  even reading about the frame through the spokes makes me wince.

    Awesome movie.  Watched it again earlier this year for the first time in years, still holds up well.  Few things from that era do.

  10. preach the truth. i believe ‘barber of seville’ is playing & i still get goosebumps thinking about dave turning himself inside out just to re-join the italians after getting dropped the 1st time. as the peleton heads out of town, they just miss that black dog that wanders across the road!

    the proud father wondering what in the world is wrong w/ his teenage son. the proud mother who keeps a passport in her purse for no other reason other than to show it at the grocery store when she writes a check.

    should be required viewing!

  11. What a great bump.  Never seen it, just watched the trailer.  It straight on the wish list!

  12. @actor1

    preach the truth. i believe ‘barber of seville’ is playing & i still get goosebumps thinking about dave turning himself inside out just to re-join the italians after getting dropped the 1st time. as the peleton heads out of town, they just miss that black dog that wanders across the road!

    the proud father wondering what in the world is wrong w/ his teenage son. the proud mother who keeps a passport in her purse for no other reason other than to show it at the grocery store when she writes a check.

    should be required viewing!

    I just went for a ride and then got my hair cut – is that kinda the same?

  13. 35 years? Oye mien gott. I haven’t seen that in 35 years? Well, I remember a lot of scenes so that says something for it initial impact. I already owned a racing bike with sew-ups, was an campy (all things Italian) fan-boy but had not shaved my legs yet. So I was a little skeptical of one or two of the cycling scenes. Rob and I were impressed by his ability to pick a notebook off the ground while riding. All in all it was a good cycling movie and a great coming-of-age movie for me.

    I’m amazed to see these actors still working, at least that wee one. He was in the Spielberg Lincoln movie as a Southern general or gentleman.

  14. Great movie. Ever since it became available on Netflix I have watched it a few times. It is good motivation to get the old 80’s steel frame Trek out for a ride. There is something about those down tube shifters I love and of course the fantastic feel of that steel frame. The paintings with this post are cool too, I hadn’t seen them before.

  15. It was a great movie , and it was refreshing to come across something I hadn’t seen before. The old adage of “rung what you brung”  hits home . It makes me want to grab “Old Red” out of the shed and take it to CX racing — coaster brake  and all – and you know I will be taping my feet to the pedals – YEEEWW!!!

  16. This. American Flyers and Hot Dog The Movie. I watch all of them once a year. Judge if you want, but I’m right and you know it.

  17. New here but wanted to share my experience as background for many of you who enjoyed the movie.

    In 1978 I was a Freshman at Indiana when the movie was being filmed and am in some of the crowd scenes at the race. Back then wasn’t into bikes or riding but now, as I have found the way, wished I had been.

    While this is a great movie and for obvious reasons one of my favorites, the only thing it lacks is capturing what a HUGE DEAL the Little 500 is at Indiana. Basketball may be king, especially when Knight was coaching, but the Little 5 is next and winning is tantamount to being a God on campus for the next year. It is taken very, very, seriously, and nobody fucks with the Riders. I was in a Frat with a bike team and you could do most anything to your brothers but not to a Rider. These guys were dedicated and hard-don’t know about now but in the day they would ride the hills in Southern Indiana (some of which are long and steep) ON SINGLESPEEDS, the bikes used in the race,  4-5 days a week to get hard and train.  They had coaches, mechanics, strict training plans, everything. During the Winter they would be riding rollers while we were partying. Most teams went down to Florida during Spring Break to train for a week. No partying-just training. Once Spring came they would have road rash all over their bodies from crashes at practice sessions. I haven’t been back in a long time but I suspect little has changed. Whenever I am riding hard or in miserable weather I think of the Riders I knew and gut it out. They were the V.

    It’s labeled the World’s Greatest College Weekend with the culmination the Race.  If you are ever in Southern Indiana in late April, or have a chance, make a point of going. It’s unforgettable and I am lucky to have seen it for four years.

  18. @JGalt

    Fantastic story! This community now boasts an extra from Breaking Away! Does it get any weirder than that?

  19. @brett

    @JGalt

    Fantastic story! This community now boasts an extra from Breaking Away! Does it get any weirder than that?

    How good is that !    “straight to the pool room ” , get that mans autograph on the DVD jacket

  20. I just watched it on netflix, ha, what a laugh. The much hated frat boy, who lost the sprint, did you see his socks? No wonder he was hated and lost. Too tall socks. Nuff said.

  21. @JGalt

    New here but wanted to share my experience as background for many of you who enjoyed the movie.

    In 1978 I was a Freshman at Indiana when the movie was being filmed and am in some of the crowd scenes at the race. Back then wasn’t into bikes or riding but now, as I have found the way, wished I had been.

    While this is a great movie and for obvious reasons one of my favorites, the only thing it lacks is capturing what a HUGE DEAL the Little 500 is at Indiana. Basketball may be king, especially when Knight was coaching, but the Little 5 is next and winning is tantamount to being a God on campus for the next year. It is taken very, very, seriously, and nobody fucks with the Riders. I was in a Frat with a bike team and you could do most anything to your brothers but not to a Rider. These guys were dedicated and hard-don’t know about now but in the day they would ride the hills in Southern Indiana (some of which are long and steep) ON SINGLESPEEDS, the bikes used in the race, 4-5 days a week to get hard and train. They had coaches, mechanics, strict training plans, everything. During the Winter they would be riding rollers while we were partying. Most teams went down to Florida during Spring Break to train for a week. No partying-just training. Once Spring came they would have road rash all over their bodies from crashes at practice sessions. I haven’t been back in a long time but I suspect little has changed. Whenever I am riding hard or in miserable weather I think of the Riders I knew and gut it out. They were The V.

    It’s labeled the World’s Greatest College Weekend with the culmination the Race. If you are ever in Southern Indiana in late April, or have a chance, make a point of going. It’s unforgettable and I am lucky to have seen it for four years.

    way to make a fucking entrance…

  22. Believe it or not I saw the film more than twenty  times – on the big screen. Back then in the UK, before the advent of multiscreens, cinemas had to have a member of staff in every screening (health and safety). I got the gig for Breaking Away. And every time that pro took him out, I shuddered…

  23. @JGalt

    New here but wanted to share my experience as background for many of you who enjoyed the movie.

    In 1978 I was a Freshman at Indiana when the movie was being filmed and am in some of the crowd scenes at the race. Back then wasn’t into bikes or riding but now, as I have found the way, wished I had been.

    While this is a great movie and for obvious reasons one of my favorites, the only thing it lacks is capturing what a HUGE DEAL the Little 500 is at Indiana. Basketball may be king, especially when Knight was coaching, but the Little 5 is next and winning is tantamount to being a God on campus for the next year. It is taken very, very, seriously, and nobody fucks with the Riders. I was in a Frat with a bike team and you could do most anything to your brothers but not to a Rider. These guys were dedicated and hard-don’t know about now but in the day they would ride the hills in Southern Indiana (some of which are long and steep) ON SINGLESPEEDS, the bikes used in the race, 4-5 days a week to get hard and train. They had coaches, mechanics, strict training plans, everything. During the Winter they would be riding rollers while we were partying. Most teams went down to Florida during Spring Break to train for a week. No partying-just training. Once Spring came they would have road rash all over their bodies from crashes at practice sessions. I haven’t been back in a long time but I suspect little has changed. Whenever I am riding hard or in miserable weather I think of the Riders I knew and gut it out. They were The V.

    It’s labeled the World’s Greatest College Weekend with the culmination the Race. If you are ever in Southern Indiana in late April, or have a chance, make a point of going. It’s unforgettable and I am lucky to have seen it for four years.

    Thanks for sharing and welcome. Lived in IN in the early 90s and went down to Bloomington for Little 5 weekend. Never saw the race but did see a car getting overturned and set on fire and a lot of serious drunken revelry. I hope it’s calmed down these days as the vibe was pretty poisonous and I was happy to get out of town and back to the calm of Terre Haute.

    I do remember seeing the movie at some point in the 80s in Scotland, never imagining for a moment that I would be on the IU campus or riding on IN roads at some point in my life. The shaving legs scene is particularly memorable for me as I went through the same” you’re doing what?” conversation.

    I’ll take riding in WI over riding in IN any day, that’s for sure.

  24. @brett although not an extra from “breaking away”, i AM a bike-riding extra in “national treasure”.  i’m portraying a messenger, riding a mountain bike (before i found THE WAY), towards the camera, in the scene with nicholas cage & justin bartha.  it’s at around the 20 min. mark, right after they’ve escaped from the wreckage of the charlotte. they’re coming out of the j. edgar hoover bldg. in dc, & i’m visible (albeit fuzzy) right between them. 

    certainly not my highest resume credit, but not as cool as an extra in “breaking away”!

  25. I moved to Bloomington in the summer of 2004 to start my doctorate at the School of Music. This was long before I discovered The Way, and as such had no interest in bikes or racing. Racing aside, the Little 500 seemed nothing more than another excuse for excessive partying and douchebaggery by (predominately) the Greek community at IU. Of course, that wasn’t much different than most weekends, or weekdays for that matter.

  26. @scaler911

    This. American Flyers and Hot Dog The Movie. I watch all of them once a year. Judge if you want, but I’m right and you know it.

    Hot Dog the Movie? What the hell?

  27. @actor1

    Another one! Nice work, we are sorted for extras/actors for The V Movie then…

  28. @Gianni

    Rob and I were impressed by his ability to pick a notebook off the ground while riding.

    Did you see the YouTube clip of Kevin Reza? Some fans helmet cam got knocked into the road and the middle of the peloton. Kevin Reza picks it up off the road and starts taking shots of the other riders in the peloton.

    Great clip by a rider of other riders, teammates smiling and waving for the camera, while racing. Eventually, Reza mailed the cam back to the owner. How cool is that? But what amazed me, is that Reza was able to scoop up the camera off the road at that speed (40-50kph?). Nuts.

    http://youtu.be/c-QQjz0EchQ

  29. @wiscot

    I’ll take riding in WI over riding in IN any day, that’s for sure.

    I graduated from UW-Madison (too many years ago to count) and would seriously like to someday return and ride the roads of central and SW Wisconsin. But in 1978 the ride was for transportation and there was little thought to getting out of town (where the beer and girls were located) and riding for pleasure in the country.

    But I did just return from a 3-week job in southern Indiana not far from Bloomington and highly recommend the country and riding (the community, food and entertainment, not so much). While the highways are hideously dangerous, no paved shoulders with heavy truck traffic, get on a paved county road and you can go forever.

    There are no suburbs, so the only traffic are locals and farmers. The land is all sectioned. Go 20-miles, turn around and come back. Gently rolling hills, farms, wild flowers in the ditch, smell of manure in the air, cows staring and dogs chasing you. Beautiful. Good drivers too, always gave lots of space passing and following.

    And don’t forget to master the one finger (index finger please) wave, that old farmer in the pick-up truck is going to give you a wave, and expects one in return.

  30. @Minnesota Expat

    @Gianni

    Rob and I were impressed by his ability to pick a notebook off the ground while riding.

    Did you see the YouTube clip of Kevin Reza? Some fans helmet cam got knocked into the road and the middle of the peloton. Kevin Reza picks it up off the road and starts taking shots of the other riders in the peloton.
    Great clip by a rider of other riders, teammates smiling and waving for the camera, while racing. Eventually, Reza mailed the cam back to the owner. How cool is that? But what amazed me, is that Reza was able to scoop up the camera off the road at that speed (40-50kph?). Nuts.
    http://youtu.be/c-QQjz0EchQ

     
    That is the best clip and wow to do it at speed! Yes Gianni and I thought that move in the movie was cool and after I practiced to do it but never more than in a parking lot at 10kph. Being limber was a help and time spent on the bike back in the day….
    @Brett, great read and all the comments and actors too! Its been too long since I’ve seen it and will be recovery fodder this winter.

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