as someone who has spent many a year teaching photoshop, i am all too well aware that every niche of modern day life has a language all of its own. try explaining the concept of pixels to folks whose principal concern is where windows put the photographs they just offloaded from their digital cameras. add to that, the disturbingly complex concept that each channel of an rgb file has 256 distinct levels; that photoshop doesn't really deal with colours, but with the numbers zero to 255. combine differing numbers in each channel and hey presto, just the very colour you didn't want.
it is the same the world over; even the hassle that i've had trying to put thewashingmachinepost together rests almost entirely on code, concepts and style sheets that have no tangible corollary in the real world. when was the last time you heard anyone say 'hand me over that html'?
cycling is no different.
peleton, derailleur, bottom bracket, domestique, inseguitori are all words we can readily associate with cycling, even if skewed wildly towards the european variant. for even within cycling, there are dialects particular to the sport, repetition of which, in the right social circles, can either mark you out as a pretentious wally, or a member of the cognoscenti, depending on the viewpoint of that circle, and your own popularity within it.
dave stoller is one such incumbent. having recently left school, along with three of his friends, he has little idea of what his future holds. bloomington is a university town, a university populated with students who generally appear not to fraternise with the cutters, the name given to local residents, no matter their academic aptitude. dave, mike, cyril and moocher spend the long, hot summer days swimming in a disused quarry, a quarry which used to provide the local working population with employment. hence the epithet cutters.
dave, however, doesn't just spend his days swimming, for his main obsession is cycling; to be quite precise, italian cycling. he rides a red masi, it's 1979 and the brake cables still come out the top of the lever hoods, and you change gear via down-tube levers, a feature that will have repercussions during a local road race in which he takes part. his father is being driven to distraction because the italian obsession has brought dave to adopt the persona of an italian racing cyclist, liberally sprinkling his diction with ciao and papa. dave's father ray later states to his mother that he wishes to ban any form of ini as in fetuccini, linguini, fellini from the household. "give me proper american food; i want french fries."
the italian obsession extends to listening to records of italian tenors singing solos from italian opera. you can, perhaps sympathise with ray's incomprehension not only of a teenage obsession, but of the terms used to express that obsession.
the italian impostor leads himself into deeper water, impressing and serenading a young female student (katherine) who believes him to be what he'd prefer she think him to be. the mosca in the ointment is katherine's boyfriend who takes less than kindly to the campagnolo capped usurper.
this dvd arrived at washingmachinepost cottage a week or so ago, but due to my having now locked the region code on the mac to region 1, i cannot watch anything other than american dvds on the computer. this would be the regular method of reviewing cycling dvds without interrupting the viewing habits of mrs washingmachinepost, but given my predicament, i implored mrs twmp that breaking away would be the ideal saturday night movie. that i watched alone on the upstairs telly will save me from phrasing her considered retort.
but it is she who has missed out on some seminal entertainment, a movie that she would undoubtedly have thoroughly enjoyed despite misgivings about anything that involves bicycles. for despite the intervening 32 years since the film's release, it has barely aged a week. only pedants such as ourselves would trouble to point out that brake cables hide under the bar tape these days, and that indexed gear systems have obliterated those two levers on the downtube.
ok, so the depiction of an italian team racing for cinzano may be a touch cliched (surely the azurri would have been clothed in blue, not black), and fitting a front wheel with the q/r lever pointing forwards is surely a faux pas that would deserve immediate relegation to the broom wagon? but those are but mere distractions from the story. dave's unceremonious ejection from the road race via a pump through the front spokes courtesy one of the black clad italians, is in retrospect, the first brick removed from his italian obsession.
feel good movies rarely, if ever, end on a low note. rest assured that dave's future is assured by being one fourth of a token local team allowed to participate in the little 500 single speed relay race around the university running track. though i'm sure the end result has entered the annals of cycling history, dave has assured himself of a university future, his colleagues seem more at ease with their own futures, and a chance meeting with a new french female student replaces viva italia with vive le france.
ray stoller is about to be greeted with bonjour instead of buongiorno.
if you wish to truly identify with the greater peloton, and you have not yet seen this movie, until that day dawns, membership is revoked. if you wish to progress, watch it again. we may be regularly advised that cycling has a rich and intriguing heritage, much of which is depicted in glorious black and white. add some colour to that heritage, for this is as much a part as fausto, eddy and larry.
breaking away is available on dvd (european region code 2) from bromley video at a cost of £16.99 plus postage
posted friday 8 april 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................