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Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist

December 2, 2014

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)
Director: James Erskine

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Synopsis: The life and career of cycling legend, Marco Pantani.

Review: It’s hard to go too far wrong with a documentary on Italian cycling sensation, Marco Pantani, when the sheer raw materials are so compelling. First, it’s a documentary about cycling (that most popular and booming of sports), it covers in a fair amount of detail the Tour de France – undoubtedly the most picturesque, iconic and gruelling of sporting events, and Marco Pantani himself is a man with an incredible story – he had that iconic, balding, buccaneering ‘Pirate’ persona, he was the last man to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France ‘Double’, he was sensationally kicked out of the 1999 Giro for having an uncommonly high red-blood cell count (invariably a sign of EPO doping), and he tragically passed away only a few years later in 2004 as a result of a cocaine overdose.

It’s hard to make an argument for the documentary really elevating the subject matter beyond its said raw materials, as it limits itself to only a few pro-Pantani talking heads (thus making it a very lenient piece that seems to offer close to a one-dimensional ‘victim’ thesis on the tragic end-game of his cycling career and life). There are also rather naff, hackneyed attempts to recreate the lustre of Pantani’s cycling style – which we already see quite readily from the archive footage from the actual stages – by showing dreamy POV downhill cycling montages. At least director James Erskine had the good sense to underscore the action with sage commentary from two great journalists in Matt Rendell and Richard Williams, and unquestionably, the film succeeds in giving the viewer a greater context to the rich story and complex character of Pantani. (December 2014)

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