I hadn't heard about The Last Kilometre until I was asked to review it and it's a relief to come to a piece of work with no pre-conceptions and no trailers. After the recent non stop trailer for 'A Year in Yellow' I was thinking 'If I hear Cath Wiggins say "Which Bradley..?" one more time I shall head butt the TV. Not Cath's fault - but less is more.
Paolo Casali is an Italian ex junior racer and documentary maker who covers the 2012 season through the eyes of two riders: Ignazio Moser - son of a certain Francesco Moser - and Davide Rebellin, the tiny haunted winner of numerous races including the Paris Nice in 2008 - now making a come back at the age of 41 after a 2 year doping ban. After introductions it's a traditional chronological jump from rider to rider and race to race to see how they're both fairing. We get to meet both fathers: Ignazio's uncorking wine at his vineyard all smug in a comfortable polo shirt; Rebellin's dad - fuming in his one man support car and refuting his son's doping guilt because 'he didn't tell me."
It's the off bike moments that make the real story and Casali does some justice to both riders. They're both nice guys at opposite ends of a career in cycling: Moser sitting with his team mates like a group of school kids on the kerb all pinning on their race numbers together in a line; Rebellin has the cadaverous face of the pro cyclist we all recognise - weary pride and sadness in every crease. It's moving to see his expression when his girlfriend gently describes how now - post ban, at the end of his career Rebellin was slowly losing his fear at moving on and discovering what it is was to be a man outside of cycling. For the young Moser too there is poignancy as Casali films a number of winners plaques in the showers at the Paris Roubaix Espoir - the junior amateur version for under 23 year olds - and catches Moser (84th this year) sidling past and giving a little glance at his father's plaque with it's 3 wins on it. My advice to you Ignazio would be to forget the Paris Roubaix and concentrate on doing an Axel Merckx - end up dancing in front of your dad, blowing raspberries and waving an olympic medal.
Talking of blowing raspberries - for Devil fans there is also a supplementary feature on Didi the Devil. Every cycling film should have one. As everyone knows Didi Sendt has been tormenting tour riders since 1993. Watching him in the dark - laboriously line painting his bicycle symbols and messages on the road only to get up at dawn and wait 10 hours to poke Cavendish in the rear with a trident - surprisingly Cav doesn't stop for a fight - you have to respect his energy. It's interesting to discover Didi grew up racing bikes in the GDR and fell in love with Le Tour by getting a signal from West German TV from behind the iron curtain. With that upbringing I can now understand when the wall came down why you might think it normal to build 'the world's largest cycle-able guitar' and spend your summers on mountain tops dressed in horns and tights. Love him or hate him - he's out there living it. Chapeau Didi.
At 53 minutes The Last Kilometer doesn't really lag. Casali says "Filming cycling's not easy. You should have 2 helicopters and 3 motorbikes to do the best" Using a lot of footage from fans, the action is sometimes scrappy and jerky, but most of it supports the story perfectly. On the Paris Roubaix Espoirs - you can taste the dust and even in the dry the race looks as it always looks - madness to be riding the cobbles at all - let alone racing on them. The music works well - a traditional quirky euro accordion pop which supports the quirky story line. The editing device of having soft retro stills flow in like an old fashioned slide projector then sharpen annoying but thankfully doesn't last long.
In retrospect Casali might have concentrated on one subject for half an hour; Moser, Rebellin or Mura could have each carried their own film. The only real fault - and thankfully it's fixable - are the subtitles. I freely admit, I couldn't begin to translate English speech accurately into Italian text. But what I'd do is get an Italian to sit down with me and translate it to text word by word. I would guess The Final Kilometer has been translated into English text by an Italian with a good - but not prefect - grasp of English. Right from the beginning the interview with a very grizzled and frankly quite frightening Gianni Mura is strangled by the Itali-anglaise.
Mura has been covering the Tour de France since 1967 and it shows. He has a face like a salami run over by a press bike - that's then got up to give chase. Squatting behind a desk covered in a rubble of notes and books Mura spits on the very concept of race radio calling it 'The end of the adventure' but you realise that he's really saying "the end of the adventurers". The subtitles continue with a rather beautiful word mash describing cautious pro riders as "They're no more familiar with the French so-called Beau Geste" when it should say 'no longer' and link with a later sentence about the French Foreign Legion method of denying riders too much water. Casali illustrates Mura's voice over reminiscence of his first tour as a journalist and the death of Tommy Simpson in the last kilometer with a wobbly bleached out sequence on the Ventoux - shot as if your looking through Tommy Simpson's eyes - that served to bring back ghastly memories of the 2009 Etape I thought I'd buried much deeper.
It's a good film but the subtitles need to be gone through with a fine tooth comb to make it a fine film. Having 'ride' mis-translated as 'run' all the way through should be fixed for major release if nothing else.
Unpretentiously shot with well chosen subjects it will gradually gain more significance as time goes by.
road.cc test report
Make and model: The Last Kilometer (DVD) Stuffilm Creativeye
Size tested: PAL
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
A fine film from a fan for fans.. I can't imagine non cyclists understanding it - let alone appreciating much of it.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Documentary using professional shot footage mixed with amateur footage and vintage news reel.
I've seen it as a download but it was well presented.
About the tester
I usually ride: Dolan Prefissio - winter bike My best bike is: Condor Moda Ti - summer bike
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,