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The images from the Tour de France in the television production Eddy Merckx in the Vincinity of a Cup of Coffee may be seen as a small sketch for the fully unfurled epic cycling drama Stars and Watercarriers. The film follows the 1973 Giro d'Italia and in his commentary Leth explains the fascination exerted by the great cycle races: "The most beautiful, most pathetic images cycling can give us involve extreme performances in classic terrain." The action literally emerges on the move and the riders readily assume the roles tradition and epic necessity allocate to them, with the central conflict between the accustomed winner and greedy Belgian legend Eddy Merckx and the Spanish mountain specialist José Manuel Fuente. Stars and Watercarriers was created by a small film unit that use a vivid, documentary style to describe the race from close up and sometimes quite from within. The film consist of ten sections, each with a title such as "A road of pain" and "A peaceful day"; thus it ... Written by
We are shown the unfolding drama in the 56.Giro D'Italia which, as far as the general classification goes, wasn't so big. Eddy Merckx is on top of the game and displays this in a way that is very unusual to watch. He is taking leads on a scale that is totally gone from modern cycling. For those that understands the dynamics of cycling this is a clear indication of his superior skills. I have never seen anything like it! Afterwards I wondered if he was able to change his tactics later in his career because as I saw it it is impossible to employ this kind of tactics if he wasn't so much better than his opponents.
The film looks very aged and the race we follow cannot be compared to modern races. In that respect this movie is historical and cannot serve as an introduction to modern cycling. Although there is a chronology in what we are shown there is a lot left unsaid by Leth and so it is at times difficult, if not impossible, to know for example what the time differences is between the riders. This is to me an essential part of a cycling race as Giro D'Italia and I was missing this.
At times Leth chose to show us some decisive development in a stage but did not follow through to the end and this was again a little frustrating to me.
I would still recommend this movie as it has rare footage and unwillingly shows how much cycling sport has developed since then. This alone makes the movie worth your while.
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