Old Films revisited

All posts in the Old Films revisited category

American Pastoral – Review

Published November 15, 2016 by tootingtrumpet

apTwo images stand out more than most in my memories of watching television as a child. The first is the summary execution of a civilian on a Vietnamese street, and the second the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk protesting against that war. Even now, I can see the charred skin and the upright body toppling sideways, a human being disintegrating. As a child, it both horrified and fascinated me. What kind of will was required for such a fate to be embraced? How could this be happening in what looked like an ordinary public space? How did the “victim” retain such preternatural calm? There were no trigger warnings back then and, since these pictures were “real”, they were almost certainly not subject to the 9.00pm watershed, before which “private parts” and patently fake violence could not be shown, but the unspeakable consequences of war were fair game.

Meredith Levov, a pre-teen, sees what I saw on television and reacts with the same horror – but decides to do something about it, eventually hooking up with an terrorist cell based in New York at the peak of the late 60s urban riots. She “brings the war home” by bombing the post office in her sleepy middle class Newark suburb and goes on the run, to be pursued by her father as her mother’s mental health spirals out of control.

That is the central storyline of Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, American Pastoral, based on the Philip Roth novel of the same name. Though I have read a few Roth novels, I have not read this one and, in consequence, the simplifications, the telescoping of plot and the awkward shoe-horning in of an unnecessary framing device, did not concern me as it did others (reviews, largely negative, continually refer back to the source material).

Ewan McGregor is a little monochromatic as “Swede” Levov, high school football hero and successful businessman – everybody loves him, but the charisma seems secondary to the square jaw and seeming immunity to ageing, physical gifts trumping emotional intelligence too easily. Jennifer Connelly does the crazy-beautiful turn (with which we have become familiar) as Swede’s shiksa goddess wife, Dawn, at her best when facing down old man Levov (Peter Riegert in midseason form) when brokering her marriage conditions across the Gentile – Jew divide. She gets the therapy and “moves on” but it’s all a little predictable.

Dakota Fanning’s work stands out as the troubled Merry, full of the burning certainty of youth and the solipsism of teenagers. She never loses touch with the child she once was, even dead-eyed and broken in an inner city squat. Fanning ensures that Swede’s obsessive pursuit of his daughter is genuinely grounded in rational hope, because Merry is forever only just out of reach – she isn’t totally brainwashed and she’s not that far away.

There’s much that is wrong with the film – themes such as the Merry’s precocious Oedipal rivalry with her mother, morphing into vehement hate and the racial dimension of the riots, are treated with an almost flippant haste, dropped and disregarded. Instead of the film broadening its perspective as the narrative moves forward, it narrows to the kind of “Parent vs Cult” trope that we have seen many times before. A sprinkling of visual cliches to mark the passage of time doesn’t help lift the sense that the desire to make Roth’s always complex work more accessible, has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

And yet this is a thought-provoking movie, especially for parents of bright teenage kids. It’s barely worth stating that teenage lives are a closed book to their families – and there’s a strong argument for saying that they should be – but we know the lure of cults, the pull of the easy solutions offered by radical politics or religions, the understandable dissatisfaction of finding an identity in a world full of unacceptable elements yet demanding that they “fit in”. What do we do to “protect” our kids? The film shows that a carapace built on orthodox family love allied to a kid’s bright and inquisitive nature, may not be enough to repel the call of something different – the “Whaddya you got?” reply given by Marlon Brando in The Wild One when asked what he was rebelling against.

Reviewers have been too harsh on this movie – there’s a distinct feeling that McGregor’s hubris in starting out as director (and star) with the notoriously difficult Roth needs calling out – but there’s something universal and something particular in this work that bubbles up through the film’s flaws. I need to read the book I suppose – and I expect that I will.

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Andrei Rublev – Review

Published June 24, 2016 by tootingtrumpet
Iconic

Iconic

We’re there. Right there. Somewhere. Near a ruined castle, as a man fills a rudimentary balloon with hot air and clings on as it climbs and pitches and yaws. And we’re still there. With him, as he looks down on a desolate landscape of swamps and broken woods, like Passchendaele centuries later. He, like the country on which he gazes, is not destined for a soft landing.

So begins Andrei Tarkovsky’s uber-arthouse masterpiece, Andrei Rublev (part of this summer’s retrospective), its opening sequence an extraordinary inspiration for much of the best work in The Revenant and a signal for what Tarkovsky will do later in Nostalgia and The Sacrifice. The film continues, in episodes that sometimes work chronologically and sometimes don’t, the images building into a tapestry depicting Russia, past, present and future, in all its appalling glory. Fleeting through one’s mind as images pile on top of each other never less than visually gorgeous, come thoughts of spirituality, artistic endeavour, friendship, honour, compassion, joy, sex, war, cruelty and, ultimately, love. They crowd the mind, the film demanding that the viewer meets it half way in its work.

An immense bell is cast in an sensational imagining of the sheer effort and elemental complexity of that task as undertaken in the Middle Ages. The works are led by a boy thrust into the role through his chutzpah and desire to save his skin and by his father’s sudden death. On the bell is etched the familiar scene of St George slaying the dragon – is the boy the Georgian Stalin and the bell Russia itself, being called upon, deep in Soviet times, to find its voice and ring again?

There are plenty of Tarkovskyian long takes, but a relentless pace too – not necessarily of narrative, but of imagery, the landscapes filled with people moving in the foreground and the background, battle scenes suffused with the fog of war, life always vibrantly present, yet always hanging by the sliver of princely favour or warlord’s whim. It’s a frighteningly modern evocation of the fate of ordinary people slain as they are caught in the backwash of alliances forming and fading of which they know nothing, shocking in its visceral impact, random in its dispensing of death and salvation.

It’s also a totalitarian film (reminding us of how the making of Apocalypse Now descended into a kind of dysfunctional fiefdom) with the director’s hand present at all times, his apparatchik cinematographer the instrument of his complete control. It has nothing in common with the Hollywood epics of today, but does trigger memories of the scale and confidence of Birth of a Nation, but without DW Griffith’s neo-fascist ideology polluting every scene. Over and over again, as the film plays back in your mind, you wonder how it ever got made – technically and politically – its authenticity irrefutable. But how?

Ultimately, it’s a extraordinary cinematic experience, made to be witnessed on a big screen, on grainy film, in the company of others with you for the full three hour runtime, still pinned to our seats as the titles roll by, in indecipherable Russian script. It is cinema as an aesthetic, collective assault on the senses – and, in those terms, it’s never been more ruthlessly conceived and executed.

Son of Saul – Review

Published May 1, 2016 by tootingtrumpet

_46751064_gateI looked out on a perfect summer’s day, as the fields rolled by outside the window of a rickety train heading from Krakow to Oświęcim. I fell into conversation with a couple of Dutch lads and we speculated on which countries’ athletes would do well in the upcoming Barcelona Olympics if they had to compete in the costumes worn in the Opening Ceremony – I told them I didn’t fancy Holland’s chances in the sprints, you know, with the clogs and all. We bought some beer from the conductor’s stash – as you did then – and the time passed quickly.

There were maybe a dozen more tourists who made their way towards  the gates, the chilling message “Arbeit Macht Frei” crowning them in wrought iron, as they had nearly 50 years earlier. The banter had already left our lips, but we were still talking, though a stillness, even a coldness, had started to slowly drive the air from our lungs. We found a guide, stared at the red brick buildings that went on as far as the eye could see – the word “camp” is really too small for what is more a town than anything else – and braced ourselves for what was to come. We said a few words as we looked at displays of teeth fillings, walking sticks, hair and the endless records that catalogued human beings turned into commodities.

The words stopped. And soon we stopped and looked at one another, pausing outside the low brick structures into which so many thousands were led for the showers that did not cleanse with water, but murdered with Zyklon B. We did not go in – we did not need to see the endgame we knew, the inevitable conclusion to the depravity we had seen over the previous hour or so. We walked back through the gates and the words slowly returned with each step towards the railway station.

The combination of the vast scale of the murders and the tiny details of its administration defeated language and, hence, thought. I had something of that feeling again, years later, when I read Primo Levi’s memoir of the camps, If This Is A Man. That masterpiece also crushes with its accounts of the life or death imperative of finding shoes to the sheer effort required to extinguish industrial volumes of human beings. Opening up a space in language, in imagination, in imagery to tell the story of the camps, is one of the great artistic challenges of the last 70 years.

László Nemes, a first time director, finds his space in the tight frame that gives us Saul’s face and, sometimes, what Saul can see – and nothing more, at least not in focus. The camera never lingers for long on anything other than Saul’s empty eyes, Géza Röhrig  brilliantly, and with great subtlety, showing us disgust, disdain, fear, obsession, hope, selfishness and much, much more, even, eventually, reconciliation. It is an acting performance that deserves the very highest praise delivering a complete realisation of Nemes’s aesthetic decisions.

The film follows Saul’s quest to give a boy (whom he suspects is his son, but whom we suspect is more a symbol for an innocence utterly absent from his world) a funeral that may restore some humanity to a child murdered in the most depraved way imaginable. He seeks a rabbi to say Kaddish, perhaps to place religion in the role of a science that has foresaken its moral compass. He clings to this quest and to the boy as a revolt is plotted and executed pathetically, even the camp’s relatively privileged Sonderkommando, broken in mind and spirit as death suffuses every breath they take.

The director has cited Elem Klimov’s epic Come And See (which left the cinema audience as dumbstruck as Son of Saul when I saw it in the late 80s at the Scala) and that was my reference point too. As is the case with that Soviet masterpiece, there are times when you can’t look, but you can’t not look either. Watching the film becomes, like reading Primo Levi’s book, an act of bearing witness, an act rooted in duty, in honouring those whose stories are told.

I expect to gain a fuller appreciation of the movie on a second viewing, when the mosaic built up at the edges of the frames will complement the expressions of Saul, the film digging deeper into my mind. But I don’t need a repeat to recognise this film as important, as utterly relevant and, at this very moment in politics, critical to an understanding of the ultimate consequence of dehumanising human beings. It will be in my mind when I read newspaper headlines and hear the increasingly shrill demagoguery that passes for political discourse – you cannot blink it away.

 

 

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY – REVIEW

Published April 10, 2016 by tootingtrumpet
It's not 42 Hardy, it really isn't!

It’s not 42 Hardy, it really isn’t!

One of the best biographies I’ve read was Robert Kanigel’s The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency, the writer’s rehabilitation of a man whose methods (if not motivation – Taylor wanted to make work more efficient to improve the lot of workers as well as managers) influence much even today. I’d always intended to read Kanigel’s well received biography of another figure whose thinking sits beneath so much work today, the Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, but well, I needed to find the time to do so. But first time feature film director, Matthew Brown, did read the book and used it as the basis of his film of the same name, The Man Who Knew Infinity.

Brown’s camera is unafraid to linger on the glorious locations where Ramanujan spent his tragically short  life, with Madras and Trinity College Cambridge vying to be the more exotic. The Indian scenes are gorgeously lit and largely forgo the easy options of the elephants and the poverty for a portrayal of his early life in a colonial accounts office as tough, but not impossible, his home life influenced but not determined by caste and religion. I could not help think of his near contemporary, Albert Einstein, who also spent time in a drudge job (at the Swiss Patent Office) whilst being rejected by an academic establishment who could not see his genius for what it became.

That genius is still not recognised when Ramanujan, having had a letter read by Cambridge don, GH Hardy, and an invitation to visit extended, arrives in Trinity’s famous quad to be met with The Academy’s healthy methodological scepticism and its unhealthy overt racism. Like cricketer Basil D’Oliviera forty years on at another pillar of The Establishment, MCC, his rustic technique (Ramanujan hasn’t much time for the proofs needed to buttress the work prior to publication that Hardy implores him to write) and his untutored, intuitive approach make him a poor fit with a culture that stretches back to Isaac Newton and beyond. There’s plenty of bigotry and a touch of envy too in those men who cannot accept that an vegetarian Indian in sandals is pushing back the boundaries of a discipline built on thousands of years of history with ideas that just come into his head.

Jeremy Irons plays Hardy as a chain-smoking atheist doyen, with a lifetime spent managing an undiagnosed autism, but with enough vision to see what Ramanujan could become and enough tough love to get him at least part of the way there. Hardy is contrasted with Jeremy Northam’s foppish Bertrand Russell, already showing the radical streak which would overwhelm his philosophical brilliance as his life’s work and the many harrumphing colleagues who believe he’s being indulged once too often.

Brown doesn’t flinch from engaging his audience with the mathematics (and gets some negative reviews in the Press as a result). We get plenty of blackboards filled with incomprehensible symbols and definitely no Margot Robbie in the bath, and there’s due respect shown to the hard work required by mathematical enquiry, even when it comes from its most mercurial practitioners. There’s no Eureka! moment staged to underline Ramanujan’s revolutionary achievements, just papers being read by middle-aged men in glasses with a mixture of doubt and wonder – like real research in other words. There is a particularly well written and delivered speech towards the end of the movie in which Hardy gives us an unimpeachable summary of Ramanujan’s greatness – a setpiece in a film that largely eschews them, tempting though they are to directors working in such environments.

Dev Patel gives us a Ramanujan whose eyes tell the tale of his discomfort amongst the accounts clerks in India and also amongst the racists (conscious and subconscious) of England. He misses his wife (Devika Bhise) whose conflict with his mother is an understandable, if slightly overdone, sub-plot, and makes the kinds of social faux pas that anyone from an accounts office in Manchester would make at Trinity, never mind one from Madras. Patel is at his best in his conversations with Hardy, where there is just a hint that the older man may have felt his attachment to his protege to have a romantic dimension were the times more enlightened. Patel’s performance may be short of the histrionics that can garner award nominations, but it’s probably true to a man whose interior life of the intellect and the spiritual drove him rather than a willingness to become a symbol for tolerance or Gandhian political radicalism. Brown should be commended for not shoehorning easy options like those into Ramanujan’s story.

Possibly the result of his strict vegetarianism maintained through wartime rationing, possibly the product of the cold Cambridge winters or maybe the consequence of an undiagnosed liver condition brought from his homeland, Ramanujan is carried away by tuberculosis at just 32 years of age, but not before his achievements were recognised at Cambridge and beyond. Though widely known in mathematical circles, this film, at least as watchable as last year’s multi-award winning biopics of Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing, will bring his name to popular audiences and underline yet again that intellectual power can come in packages that don’t fit into preconceived boxes. It’s a lesson those who wish to reduce Higher Education to league tables and box ticking research exercises might do well to reflect upon.

Dr Strangelove – Review

Published April 5, 2016 by tootingtrumpet
Ride 'em Cowboy

Ride ’em Cowboy

Somehow, I had never seen Dr Strangelove. For a while, that state of affairs was just laziness, then it became a reluctance due to fear of a letdown (the same attitude that stops me venturing into “Curb Your Enthusias” or “The Sopranos” – absurd really). Then, browsing Netflix and approaching the familiar dull conclusion that there were just too many choices, I clicked on the monochrome still of a crazy looking Peter Sellers and… well, it’s every bit as good as everyone says. 

What impresses first (and last) is Kubrick’s mastery of the lens. It moves continually, especially around the cigar chomping visage of Sterling Hayden’s mad General Jack D Ripper, instigator of the B52 attack on Russia. The lens may be restive, but it’s never moving just for the sake of visual stimulus – it’s always revealing another aspect of each character, image and script in harmony. This is the opposite effect of the literally nauseating camerawork in Les Miserables (and many other recent films) in which you can feel as though you’re watching the action at sea, so unsteady is the viewpoint. I also caught more than a touch of Leni Riefenstahl’s work on Olympia and, particularly in the still astonishing Flying Fotress scenes, Triumph Of The Will, lending a touch of Nazi aesthetic to the work long before Strangelove’s Touretteish right arm offers a whole lot more.

Ken Adams’ War Room is justly celebrated as one of the great sets in film history, a pre-cursor of that used in You Only Live Twice and countless other films as the lair of maniacal megalomaniacs (up to and including Mike Myers’ Dr Evil). Long before the supercasinos of Las Vegas constructed their vast gaming rooms, Adams’ captured their ambience for the highest stakes game of poker played between the American military and the Russians in an environment uncannily similar to those you find on The Strip, 50 years on.

Kubrick, not always entirely ethically, gets great performances out of his cast, led by Peter Sellers, who delivers as masterful a display of black comedy acting as Alan Arkin gives as Yossarian in Mike Nicholls’ underrated adaptation of Catch 22.

It’s hard to know where Sellers is at his best. His upper middle class RAF man, Mandrake, never quite loses his English reserve even as Armageddon is literally just over the horizon, the accent, moustache and rhythm of speech wavering, but always held by a man who reported Japanese torture as if it were a late reverse in the Varsity Match at Twickenham. It’s lovely stuff.

His President Muffley is played straight, but to hilarious effect, especially in his interactions with George C Scott’s completely overacted General Turgidson (Kubrick told Scott that the takes were only warm-ups, so he would let rip, and then used the footage – and who wouldn’t, so magnificently wild-eyed is the man who went on to win (and refuse) an Oscar as General Patton). His improvised telephone conversation with his Soviet counterpart is beautifully controlled too.

Sellers finally gets his chance to go to 11 in his cameo as Strangelove himself, a mad MAD scientist inspired by any number of MittelEuropa types, but most obviously Wernher Von Braun, architect of the Nazi V1 and V2 weapons and de facto chief of NASA’s rocketry programmes (and hence, ICBMs). Strangelove is barely a character at all, but his type, fiercely intelligent, but full of zealous commitment to ideas rather than people, are present wherever powerful people gather. It’s why the name has become a shorthand embedded forever in popular culture.

Stealing the show is a man who didn’t really know what the film was about, having not been privy to the full script. Slim Pickens pretty much played himself when acting as Major “King” Kong, commander of the rogue B52 and man utterly determined to carry out his orders. Kubrick got a good ‘Ol Texas Boy off the set and so he simply asked Pickens to be himself on the set – and he is in a piece of largely unintentional comic genius.

That the film is so good to look at gives a timeless feel to the experience of watching it, but, in a year when the US Republican Party seem in thrall to demagoguery and bombast, the satire is terrifyingly contemporary – indeed, it’s with a shiver that one is forced to acknowledge that, 53 years on, it’s barely satire at all.

  

Eddie The Eagle – Review

Published March 29, 2016 by tootingtrumpet
I believe he can fly

I believe he can fly

What, then, is “the truth”?

Such philosophical diversions crossed my mind as Eddie The Eagle slid towards its predictable, if satisfying, conclusion with the accidental hero greeted by hundreds on his return to England and embraced around the world as a man of great courage and determination, if not great skills and success. Because what we see in Dexter Fletcher’s feelgood movie is not a succession of scenes that “happened” building to a History Of Mr Folly, but a more holistic truth about spirit, about heart and about the consolation one can find in participating rather than winning – which is the fate of almost all of us after all. It does its job well.

Tarun Egerton follows up his role in the almost unwatchable Kingsmen with the much greater challenge of portraying our hero, a turn he pulls off with great aplomb. Though Eddie was not as hapless a sportsman as written here: in fact, he was gifted in a number of sports – how else could he even have reached the level he did as a skier, never mind landed jumps off the 70m hill after so little practice? Egerton moves and looks an athlete, so the potential to be competent is never in doubt for all his rustic technique. Though consistently rejected by the blazers, Egerton refuses to play Eddie as a victim, literally jutting his chin out and standing tall, a shy, but articulate man, full of plain-speaking humility. It’s a considerable acting feat to stay just the right side of caricature.

Hugh Jackman’s Coach Peary is a caricature, but ol’ Wolverine has charisma to burn and goes through the motions as the man who coulda been a contender pleasingly enough. (Though the less said about Christopher Walken’s walk-on cameo at the end the better). Jackman is a deus ex machina (there was no coach, at least not this kind) but, with the film making no pretentions to documentary status, why not?

Best of the rest in a cast not required to do much more than play out types with whom we can be comfortable, are the two women in Eddie’s life, his mother, Jo Hartley delivering a rare underplayed performance in a movie that doesn’t leave much unsaid, and Iris Berben, who has much of Nigella Lawson’s er… presence as Petra, the bar owner who takes Eddie under her wing.

(There’s a clever little nod to Cool Runnings in one scene and (I hope) a nod too towards another hapless trier, Richard Dunn, the Bradford boxer who traded punches with Muhammad Ali. And was Tim McInnerny styled to look like Giles Clarke, former Chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board, the sports administrator who features in the film Death of a Gentleman? Maybe it was a coincidence).

Try though I did to be cynical (with incidental music is well up the John Lewis Christmas Advert scale when it comes to enhancing the sentimentality, you feel the cynicism welling up), I couldn’t quite manage it. I knew I was being manipulated, I knew that things weren’t quite like that, but I knew that Eddie walked the walk (or, rather, jumped the jump) and that alone took real cojones, never mind his struggle to get the chance to stand at the top of that hill in Calgary. I also knew what you saw was what you got from the flying plasterer – and that, ultimately, is also the case for the film. It’s no Raging Bull, but if you slide alongside, it will, like Eddie himself, make you that little bit happier with the world. And that’s no bad thing.

PANTANI: THE ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF A CYCLIST – REVIEW

Published February 28, 2016 by tootingtrumpet

MPAbout 20 years ago, Marco Pantani, the Italian cyclist, was the most captivating sports star on the planet, a force of nature who would seize the moment and, with a passion that crossed frictionlessly to his huge fanbase, deliver superhuman feats. I was a fan – a big fan. In July 1998, at my parents’ house, with my one year old son toddling and playing with bright plastic things in front of me, I watched all six hours of Eurosport’s coverage of his evisceration of Jan Ullrich in stormy weather en route to Les Deux Alpes. I was there in Paris a week or so later, to see him in yellow on the Champs Elysees too.

But that Tour is not remembered for that most epic of all epic stages, nor for Pantani’s GC victory just three years after a head-on collision (in which he was blameless) threatened his life, never mind his career. It will be remembered for The Festina Affair – the moment cycling (and its fans) had to acknowledge its endemic, systemic doping problem, the endgame (of sorts) coming nearly 15 years later with Lance Armstrong’s 2013 TV confession.

Pantani: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist (available on Netflix) tells the tale of the man through highlights, interviews and reconstructions. There’s Marco as the bike-bonkers boy, washing his machine in the bath and furtively tinkering with the derailleur in the middle of the night (echoed later in scenes showing cyclists training in hotel rooms at 3.00am to thin blood thickened to heart attack danger levels by EPO). There’s the amateur successes – Marco with hair – and a fierce will to win emerging from the short, slight, shy kid. Then, after metal pins held his leg together in hospital and the learning to walk again, there’s his re-invention as Il Pirata, and with it the adulation, the girls and the girlfriend and the Giro and the Tour.

But Marco’s eyes never really change. There’s a melancholy there, a window on to a soul that was most at home pounding out the training miles, flying uphill past, and not with, team mates, a man who both longed to be alone yet could barely cope when left to his own devices. He could endure physical pain – that’s pretty much the first line of the pro cyclist’s job description – but he couldn’t deal with the mental pain of defeat, but also, perhaps,  the burden of the pervasive doping deceit. Cycling, with its curious combination of an emphasis on individual endeavour within a strong team framework, its weeks on the road in grim cheap hotels with the aircon blocked for fear of catching a cold and its routine monastic lifestyle punctuated by wild celebratory blowouts, does not lend itself to preparing its heroes for retirement. Like cricketers (who have to cope with many of the challenges listed above) too many cyclists find the adjustment to the outside world too disorienting after they hang up  their cleats.

He’s been gone 12 years, but would only be 46 now and, in that way that those who look 40 when 20, would almost certain look exactly the same if he were around today. Cycling, sport in general, hell even I, miss him, because the likes of Il Pirata don’t come round very often and they leave huge gaps when they go.

And yet, cycling, sport and I have plenty of culpability in his demise at his own hand in a dingy hotel room on a cold dull day in February 2004. Cycling didn’t (and maybe hasn’t) grasped the nettle of doping and rooted it out from top to bottom – or at least as far as it can. Sport demands more and more of its heroes, especially those who transcend mere winning and losing and become icons, their every move photographed, filmed, dissected. And I, and millions of fans like me, bought the magazines (I subscribed to Cycle Sport and Procycling so as not to miss anything Marco) and looked on amazed, but knowing that what looks too good to be true probably is too good to be true. But we still thought of the Marcos and the Frankies and the Jose Marias as winners (in the game of cycling) and not losers (in the game of life). The film’s title may nod in the direction of Dario Fo’s play, but there was nothing accidental about this death.

That said, Marco bears some responsibility for his fate, but there’s plenty of faceless men with money and a vicious amorality who constructed a culture in professional cycling that destroyed many of its brightest stars and countless others down the ladder of success. The film Pantani shows much of the beauty of this most beautiful of sports – and plenty of the ugliness of this most ugly of sports too.