Steve Tesich’s Breaking Away (1979) and American Flyers (1985)

August 19, 2015 | By

BreakingAway1979_poster_mAugust is often branded as the month which houses ‘the dog days of summer,’ that period where even for those not on vacation (like me, since I rarely take them, but should) mentally chill out and absorb days at a slower pace.

Perhaps it’s Toronto’s classic steeped humidity that winds down the body’s ability to walk fast, hindering the mind to think straight, and have one take things in smaller steps to ensure when one arrives at Point B, one hasn’t become a puddle of melted human goo.

As we’re into the final two weeks of August and Labor Day signals a return to work (and the imminent arrival of fall), I’ve posted reviews of two cycling dramas penned by the late Steve Tesich, best known for the still superb, still engrossing, still moving Breaking Away (1979), which earned him a Best Oscar for writing, and showed Peter Yates could direct more than snappy caper films (Bullitt) and Jacqueline Bisset in a wet t-shirt (The Deep).

Breaking Away comes in a nice Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time, and again features a marvelous commentary track that covers the making of this really, really great little film. I remember when Fox released the DVD, I heard two police officers in a video shop claim how much the film changed their lives, and how thrilled they were that Tesich’s funny yet poignant story was out on disc.

Both officers rode cycles, so maybe the big draw was more than a connection with the characters – Breaking Away features some of the best shot and edited cycling sequences put on film, and the final race is a great example of cutting that should be a textbook example for editing classes. No pounding music, no ADD cuts, just characters, action, rhythm, and a flurry of visual textures that put you right in front of the cyclists.

AmericanFlyersTesich’s Oscar probably had many studios knocking on his door to write another racing story, and American Flyers (1985) for Warner Bros. was the result, seemingly penned fast, with lesser characters, sometimes terrible dialogue, and Kevin Costner sporting a porn star moustache.

John Badham’s direction is slick, but the film is more of an artifact of 80s populist filmmaking with montages, bubble-headed music, bad theme songs, and male bonding scenes that trump any kind of strong female characters. Most of the women complain, are silently supportive, or are ‘free spirited’ airheads, but the marathon scenes are pretty damn good, so it has a few merits.

Note how in the intervening years the poster art was shrunk from secondary characters flanking Costner (see below) to just the star solo on his racing bike (see above left). I will say the poster art is quite good, linking speed, friendship, and romance with brush strokes dabbed in the colours of the U.S. flag.




Coming next: Twilight Time’s new Blu of The World of Henry Orient (1964), and Anchor Bay’s Always Watching (2015), a film version of the Marble Hornet web series.

And coming soon: another dog days of summer tale, the loopy Summer Lovers (1985), finally in proper widescreen and on Blu via Twilight Time.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Tags: , , , , , ,


Comments are closed.