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Excellent and timely portrayal that does justice to the source material.
on 23 May 2014
To head off any comments about how I saw this before the DVD release- this film was premiered a few weeks ago in a small number of cinemas and I was lucky enough to see it in Belfast just after the Giro team presentation at a showing followed by a Q&A with James Erskine and Matt Rendell. Why was Matt Rendell there? Well, this documentary was inspired by his brilliant, balanced and detailed "The Death of Marco Pantani" although due to the nature of film making there were only certain elements that could be included.
As for the actual documentary- it brings together many of the important people in Pantani's life to develop an picture of a complex and passionate individual. We live in a world shaped by media that prefers simplified binary oppositions- people are either for us or against us, good or bad- however this documentary challenges that simplistic dichotomy- it is too easy to condemn pro cyclists from that era for all being "bad people who cheated using drugs" but this work places everything in context. While not condoning what went on during a dark period for cycling, it forces viewers to ask themselves honestly what choices they would have made in the same position.
There is also a tendency among many to promote Pantani to the sainthood, such are the myths and narratives that were built around him, but again Erskine avoids this- the film doesn't judge Pantani, it simply offers opportunities to understand a very complex man who struggled a lot internally. It is to Erskine's credit that he cut through a lot of the protective bubble people close to Pantani erected to preserve his legend, and it humanises him all the more.
While offering an extra "chapeau" to Erskine on the Dario Fo inspired title, it is important to note that you do not have to be a cycling fan to find this an excellent piece of work-in fact it would be interesting to see the responses from those who are approaching Pantani with fresh eyes, not carrying the baggage of opinions from the past. And for those of us who have followed the sport for a long time- the archive footage of Bartali and Coppi, as well as Pantani himself as he surges away climbing on the drops is worth the price of the film alone as well as underlining just why Il Pirata inspired such fervent support.