Starring: Marco Pantani, Conan Sweeny
Despite suffering a potentially life threatening and career ending injury, Italian professional cyclist Marco Pantani won both the Tour De France and Giro d’italia in 1998, a feat that has not since been repeated. His natural charisma and almost inhuman ability at cycling uphill made him a hero to millions. However, after doping scandals that have been the subject of conspiracy theories ruined his career, this left him a broken man and less than six years later he died alone in a hotel room from acute cocaine poisoning.
Since Senna became so incredibly (and deservedly) successful, sporting documentaries have become increasingly popular, and I have no idea if director James Erskine claims to be influenced by Asif Kapadia’s incredible documentary, but Pantani certainly adopts an identical style of talking heads mixed with archive footage (and the occasional minor visual reconstruction). The story itself is certainly one worth telling; road cycling is one of the most physically demanding sports and Marco Pantani’s achievements stand as testament to how much of an incredibly gifted athlete he was.
Though a lack of actual footage may at some points prevent the film from having the emotional impact of a film such as Senna (though that is hardly the fault of the makers) and in particular it is sometimes hard to truly engage with character of Pantani as he is a bit of an enigma. Anyone who follows any of the highly commercialised sports may also not be particularly shocked by the politics involved in Pantani’s story and how he was treated simply by doing a sport he loved.
However The Accidental Death of a Cyclist still most definitely serves as an engaging, moving and ultimately cautionary allegory about the fickle and highly pressurised world of modern day sport where sponsorship and money have become far too important. It is made with passion and integrity by a director who seems a to have a good eye for narrative storytelling (something some documentaries can lack), making an intriguing but not necessarily life changing story worth telling highly watchable and gripping.