Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist

Last night I went along to a screening of James Erskine's feature length film about the infamous rider, Marco Pantani (cheers for the hookup Boom). The film tackles one of the most complex and tragic tales within not only the world of cycling, but the greater sphere of sporting life (and in this case, death).
Most will be at least vaguely familiar with the story of Pantani, a complex narrative murkied with conflicting stories and opinions on the man. Based loosely upon the seminal biography 'The Death of Marco Pantaniby Matt Rendell (essential reading for any professional cycling enthusiast), Erskine seeks to tell the story of a troubled and tragic champion. Starting of course with Marco as a child, finding his way into a sport from which it appears he had natural gifts and talents from the outset.
Some of the earlier footage of him racing was fantastic, I had certainly never seen clips of him as an under 16 racing, and of course, winning. One particularly charming vintage clip sees a fumbling and flustering Pantani struggle to articulate an answer to a question about his trainer, humorously responding in the most basic of fashion. It was hard not to feel an affinity with this little reserved and curious looking child. The film is a fabric woven together by dialogue from many of Pantani's inner circle, amongst most significantly, his mother Tonina.
Its quite a uncomfortable and melancholic experience to watch what is essentially a grieving mother recant a story so clearly painful and visceral to her. Her closing comments really left a sad taste in the mouth, of a hopeless tragedy that perhaps on some subconscious level she lays blame with herself. Its quite a lot to stomach.
I must confess my opinion on Marco seems to be a fairly fluid one... I fall in love with the romantic swashbuckling hero, darting uphill in the drops with such ferocity, but then equally I loathe the duplicitous and dirty drug addled moron who wasted his life in such a selfish manner. Its this complexity that lends itself well to the film, with an opportunity to look through the other side of the looking glass and see Pantani in perhaps a different way. An open heart and an open mind are perhaps better accompaniments to this film than popcorn and fizzy pop.
One thing the feature absolutely nails is the race footage. They build a sense of drama and anticipation, and present those moments of racing magic in a really nice way. Obviously the big screen experience lends itself perfectly to watch the mutilation unfold (both of himself and the others) as Marco massacres the famous Galibier in '98. 
The film is indeed an interesting watch. I must confess, I did prefer the book to the film. Perhaps this is due to the intense nature of the story and the myth, with a book you can choose when to dip in and out of this brutal reality that was professional cycling in that infamous era.  I left the cinema feeling a little blue and melancholic. But such is life, quite often the happy endings don't actually work out as intended. 
Here is a link to a full list of screenings in the UK
The dvd is on sale for pre release over at amazon
Find more info at the website here

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