Death of a Cyclist / Age of Infidelity (1955)

“They left him lying there like a dog.”

Death of a Cyclist Poster

Synopsis:
After accidentally hitting a bicyclist with their car, a wealthy married woman (Lucia Bose) and her lover (Alberto Closas) flee the scene of the accident. When a blackmailer named Rafa (Carlos Casaravilla) threatens to tell the woman’s husband (Otello Toso) that he has seen her with Closas, they fear he has witnessed their crime.

Genres:

Review:
Death of a Cyclist — the best-known film by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bardem (uncle of actor Javier Bardem) — opens with the tragic titular event, which forces two complacent lovers to question the ultimate survival of their affair. Meanwhile, the weaselly Rafa represents a generalized malevolence towards the bourgeoise; his character — almost a caricature, but an effective one — wants nothing more than to get revenge against what he views as a privileged, careless class. Though a subplot revolving around Closas’ increasingly threatened position as a university professor doesn’t always ring true, it helps moves the plot along to its tragic ending. The final scene is especially poignant — you’ll find yourself muttering “touche” in admiration.

P.S. Cyclist won raves at the Cannes International Film Festival, but was inexplicably panned by New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther (see link below) upon its American release.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Luminous b&w cinematography
    Cinematography
  • Judicious use of editing and close-ups to create emotional tension
    Close-Ups
  • Carlos Casaravilla — who looks and acts uncannily like Peter Lorre — as the creepy blackmailer
    Blackmailer

Must See?
Yes. This powerful story of guilt and infidelity should be seen by all film fanatics.

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One Response to “Death of a Cyclist / Age of Infidelity (1955)”

  1. Agreed, a must-see.

    What’s most interesting about the film – aside from the strong performances, the way it’s photographed, etc. – is the sly construction of the script. When you think it’s going to be a simple story of how an adulterous couple is undone, you’re taken in surprising directions.

    What’s least interesting – until you see how she’s manipulated by others – is the wife. She’s gotten herself into the lap of luxury – a situation which even bores her – and nothing will ever be enough. (It makes perfect sense when her lover claims she prefers the “adventure” of them not ever becoming a real couple.)

    Actually, the adulterers are a little on the morose side; her husband seems to me a lot more fun (and probably mucho mas ‘playful’, if you follow). Still, it’s a story of moral resurrection – so the plight of the couple is apt.

    In one sequence, the piano-playing blackmailer plans to let the s–t hit the fan by proclaiming “Now the fun starts!” It’s a “Fasten your seat belts…” moment in which he becomes a hybrid of Margo Channing, Addison DeWitt AND Oscar Levant. A very interesting, practically non-verbal scene.

    Apparently, the Spanish censors prevented director Bardem from releasing the ending he wanted. While it’s intriguing to think of the alternative, it’s difficult thinking of a more satisfying conclusion.

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