Plot: What’s it about?
Juan (Alberto Closas) and Maria Jose (Lucia Bose) had just finished a late night romantic tryst, when the drive back turned into a nightmare. As they drove, a man on a bicycle rode too close and was struck by the couple’s automobile. Juan stopped to check on the man and discovered he was still alive, but Maria insisted they leave the scene before they were discovered. Maria’s concern was that if they waited around to help, questions would arise on why she and Juan were together, especially under these circumstances. You see, Maria is a married woman, but not to Juan, instead to another man. As time passes, Juan becomes overwhelmed by guilt, while Maria is terrified of being caught. When unusual events begin to unfold and secrets start to be revealed, what will become of the two and their dark secrets?
This is an odd choice for The Criterion Collection, at least in my opinion. Death of a Cyclist is a decent movie, but it never rises above average and falls apart toward the conclusion. The case paints promises of extreme tension and thrills, but in truth this is a pretty standard potboiler. Juan Antonio Bardem’s direction is fine, but he falls back on the usual cliches, like when he shoehorns in an unwelcome blackmail subplot to bolster the thin main plot line. There is social commentary at work, but this is not a “message” film, so don’t expect layer after layer of depth. The movie is pretty passable until the finale, which is so miserable and worthless, it makes the rest of the film seem like a waste. Even so, Death of a Cyclist has some decent moments, so if you’re interested, a rental wouldn’t be a bad investment.
Video: How does it look?
Death of a Cyclist is presented in full frame, as intended. This transfer isn’t up to Criterion’s usual level of excellence, but the image is still more than solid. The print is in decent shape, but has more evidence of wear than we’re used to, based on Criterion’s previous restorations. Even so, the visuals have a sharp presence and the black & white image is potent. So while not a homerun as usual for Criterion, this is a solid double.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Spanish soundtrack is preserved here via a mono option, which sounds good, all things considered. The track is still an older mono option however, so keep that in mind. As such, some flaws remain and the audio has a thin presence in most scenes. This movie relies on dialogue however, so we don’t miss depth or dynamic presence in this case. I found dialogue to be clear and easy to understand, while the other elements seem in proper order as well. This disc also includes new & improved optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Just one supplement, but Calle Bardem is an in depth look at the director’s career that is worth a look. The piece runs just under forty-five minutes and includes interviews with those who worked with Bardem, as well as film critics. You’ll learn a lot about the director and what he hoped to accomplish with his films, as well as the obstacles he faced. A well crafted, informative piece that adds some real value to this release.