Bicycles on film

As some of you may know, the Filmspot team were ‘pedalling to victory’ yesterday at the London to Brighton cycle ride (and are now nursing their achy bits!) so in their honour, here are five of the best films featuring bicycles. Let us know if we’ve missed your favourite:

1. Belleville Rendezvous (Les Triplettes de Belleville)

Sylvain Chomet‘s much acclaimed animation focuses on Tour de France hopeful, Champion, and his grandmother, Madame Souza. When Champion is kidnapped by the French mafia, Madam Souza sets off, with her trusty dog, Bruno, to find him.

There are so many quirky threads running through this near-wordless film, it warrants more than one viewing. The humour is heavily influenced by the great Jacques Tati (Chomet went on to animate ‘The Illusionist’ last year, based on a Tati script), and all the characters are wittily and beautifully observed. The finger-clicking soundtrack by Ben Charest relies heavily on gypsy jazz influences, and keeps the story chugging along.

2. Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) 1948

Set in post-war Rome, this neorealist film centres on Antonio Ricci, an unemployed man, who is delighted when he finally gets a job, putting up posters. He is told he must have a bicycle to have the job, and so his wife pawns their bedsheets to redeem Antonio’s bicycle from the pawnbroker. On his first day, his bicycle is stolen, and he and his son Bruno have no option than to walk the streets of Rome, trying to find the thief and recover the bicycle. Vittorio de Sica‘s poignant film is as engaging as it is heartbreaking.

3. Bejing Bicycle (十七岁的单车) 2001

Beijing Bicycle takes more or less the same idea as Bicycle Thieves and puts it against a coming-of-age backdrop. Aged seventeen, Guei from the countryside comes to the city to find work. He gains employment with a courier company, who give him a bicycle. When his bicycle is stolen, he vows to find the culprit. He manages to track it down as now belonging to another seventeen year old boy, Jian, who has bought it from a secondhand market.

Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai, this sparkling drama examines the different social standings of the bicycle’s owners, through their relationship with the bicycle.

4. Jour de Fete 1949

A huge influence on Belleville Rendezvous (above), Jour de Fete was Jacques Tati’s first major feature. It centres on a happy and contented village postman, who visits the village fair and sees a documentary about America’s fast and efficient postal system. After being ridiculed by the villagers (and drinking too much wine), he decides to do his rounds the American way!

5. Breaking Away 1979

Another coming-of-age tale, this charming American film follows four high school graduates. Dave Stohler, a talented cyclist fantasises about joining the Italian elite of racers, and is thrilled to have the chance to compete against a professional Italian team, but things don’t quite go as planned… Peter Yate’s film is endearing and uplifting.