(aka 'VAge of Infidelity" or "Death of a Cyclist" or "Gli Egoisti')
Juan Antonio Bardem
Spain / Italy 1955
Ironically, Juan Antonio Bardem (1922-2002) might be better known today as the uncle of actor Javier Bardem than as the master of sound and image that he is. Antifascist filmmakers who stuck around during Franco's reign are often forgotten outside Spain--unlike Luis Buñuel, who came back just long enough to make a few films and then left again. A communist, Bardem stayed, struggled, and was jailed more than once; he was in prison when he won an award at Cannes for this creepy, claustrophobic 1955 melodrama. An adulterous couple (Alberto Closas and Lucia Bosé) in a country-club milieu accidentally run over a cyclist and flee out of fear that their relationship will be revealed; their guilty paranoia opens many sores while awakening the man's social conscience. As in Bardem's still greater Calle Mayor (1956), Death of a Cyclist follows the antifascist strategy Henri-Georges Clouzot used in Le Corbeau for Vichy-era France, transposing the ugliness of power relations in a repressive society to the spheres of sex and gossip.
Upper-class geometry professor Juan and his wealthy, married mistress Maria José, driving back from a late-night rendezvous, accidentally hit a cyclist, and run. The resulting, exquisitely shot tale of guilt, infidelity, and blackmail reveals the wide gap between the rich and the poor in Spain, and surveys the corrupt ethics of a society seduced by decadence. Juan Antonio Bardem's charged melodrama Death of a Cyclist (Muerte de un ciclista) was a direct attack on 1950s Spanish society under Franco’s rule. Though it was affected by the dictates of censorship, its sting could never be dulled.
Theatrical Release: May 9th, 1955 - Cannes Film Festival
DVD Review: Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Criterion Collection (Spine #427) - Region 1 - NTSC|
Average Bitrate: 6.97 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono 1.0)|
Calle Bardem (2005 - 44:00)
Firstly, seeing films this stylish with such an uncomfortable social edge are certainly humbling to this reviewer. Just when you develop a minor comfort with your knowledge of cinema you see something as potent and haunting as Death of a Cyclist. A film I knew nothing about previously but one that will extensively impact my perception of the medium. I found it totally mesmerizing filmmaking.
This Criterion transfer is again pictureboxed (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Criterion have included a thick black border around the edge of the frame to counter overscan on production-made television sets.
Well, I had surmised that we had seen the last of pictureboxing from Criterion - I guess my hopefulness was misplaced. This transfer looks good, but by Criterion's lofty standard - not great. There is light damage, usually running vertically, and mostly in the beginning of the film. Contrast, frequently a hallmark of Criterion, seems somewhat faded in Death of a Cyclist. There is some minor noise and overall my judgment of this image appearance leans towards a thin, more fragile, presentation. The positive, is that, of course, the film is very watchable and the weaker points of the transfer don't impinge upon the impact of Bardem's masterpiece. It is dual-layered, has a healthy bitrate and is progressive making me suspect that it is fruitful as Criterion could offer given the supplied source material. The mono audio is unremarkable but fully discernable and the dialogue is supported by optional English subtitles.
Supplements include a 45 minute documentary entitled Calle Bardem. Directed by Alberto Leal it features interviews with Bardem's collaborators and peers including his writing partner Luis Berlanga as well as critics and scholars discussing his achievements in Spanish cinema. It is very educational and definitely worth watching. The package also includes a 30-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by scholar Marsha Kinder and Bardem's 1955 call to arms for Spanish cinema.
I'm so very impressed with this film and very much appreciate Criterion bringing it to digital light for English-locked audiences. The pricing is not extensive and you get an enjoyable documentary as a viable supplement with this suspenseful, stylish film. I have really learned about a new director and intend to seek out more of his work now. I strongly recommend this package - personally speaking, a real eye-opener film-wise.