Thursday, 19 June 2014

REVIEW - PANTANI: THE ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF A CYCLIST (JAMES ERSKINE)


A frustratingly basic and shallow biographical documentary, about a man who ignited a new flame of inspiration in a sport, by a man evidently burned by that flame. There's no denying the talent in Marco Pantani, nor the magnitude of what he achieved, nor the passion felt by many of his countrymen and women for him, and possibly not even the dubious circumstances under which his downfall was orchestrated. It's just that there's no denying that James Erskine tells this side of the story and this side only. Through standard documentary techniques such as interviews, voiceover, montages, archive footage and the occasional recreation, none of which have been used to especially impressive effect, Erskine charts Pantani's life through the prism of his career as a cyclist, with little insight into anything else. Considering the film's title, and the eventual manner in which both his career and his life came to their respective ends, there's scope here for considerable rumination upon Pantani the man, rather than Pantani the icon, but Erskine never seems to bother getting inside his head. We see his desire to succeed, and we see his desperation when that is denied him, but we don't understand them - there's no clue as to why. What we're provided instead is a doc that strives for dynamism in its style and structure, albeit a rudimentary dynamism, to make up for the lack of compelling archival content. Erskine manages to make his picture engaging, perhaps up until the close, where his adoration for his subject begins to grate in its relentlessness, but his stylistic choices are crude and cheesy, and cheapen the film to the point where it induces unintentional laughter. A shame that such a seminal figure in sport should be dishonoured with mediocre filmmaking, and ironically so, since this is the exact opposite of what was intended.