James Erskine: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist

I watched some of the mountain stages at the Tour de France this year, they were boring as nobody really tried anything. Froome was in total control. It was not like that when Marco Pantani was riding, when he reached the top of Alpe d’Huez, when he – ”Il Pirata” – said goodbye to the rest of the cyclists and rode on his own in his very special style, becoming the darling of not only fans from his own country but of all who loved Tour de France and Giro d’Italia and the stars of the show.

These magnificent performances are all well documented in this film that also has quite many interviews with Pantani (1970-2004) himself, with family, with Greg Lemond and Bradley Wiggins, former winners of the Tour, and others close to him. All to build the story of a great talent 10 years after his death, the man who became ”an instrument of a sporting system”, it is being said, part of an unhealthy culture.

The film digs into the scandals of the Festina Team and all that followed doping-wise, repeats again and again close-ups of needles, injections, blood and have reconstructed scenes of a doctor entering the door to Pantani’s hotel room to take those tests, that kicked him out of the Giro d’Italia in 1999, the year after he had won both this race and the Tour de France, still the only one to have done that.

This constant noisy hunt for effect and sensation ruins the film totally, cliché after cliché are presented, stupid split screens, are brought to the viewer with no respect for the  legend, who died so tragically.

I watched the film on Netflix.

UK, 2014, 94 mins.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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