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Pantani: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist [DVD]
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"Pantani's is perhaps the greatest cycling story ever told"--Ned Boulting
"Essential watching even for anyone who can't stand the sport" ****--Total Film
"Stunning portrayal of a great sporting tragedy" ****--Rouleur
In 1998 Marco Pantani, the most flamboyant and popular cyclist of his era, won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia--a titanic feat of physical and mental endurance that no rider has repeated since. He was a hero to millions--the saviour of professional cycling following the doping scandals which threatened to destroy the sport. However, less than six years later, aged just 34, he died alone, in a cheap Italian hotel room.
This film is not just about cycling but an emotional exploration of what drives athletes to compete; man versus mountain, athlete versus the system, Marco Pantani versus himself.
Extended interviews with Greg LeMond, Matt Rendell and Richard Williams.
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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.
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