Director Tony Girardin could have made a very simple documentary with Marinoni. The film follows Giuseppe Marinoni, a 75 year old bike craftsmen who is attempting to break the hour record for cycling in his age group. The record is simply a person on their bike, racing around a track in an attempt to travel the greatest distance within sixty minutes. It’s punishing for an athlete, no matter their age, so one can only imagine what it would be like to attempt it at 75-years-old. The inspirational story could have just been built around Marinoni trying to break the record and would have been more than enough for a film, but Girardin doesn’t stop there. Once viewers meet Marinoni, it’s easy to see why Girardin could never stop there. Marinoni is the definition of hard working and dedicated. He also happens to be a bit of a lovable grump, making for a funny and touching film about his life, with the record only a small part of the real story.
Marinoni has the kind of immigrant story that we may not actually get very often any longer. Born in Italy, Marinoni came to Canada as a champion cyclist for racing, but never went back home again. With the clothes on his back, his bike by his side, and five dollars in his pocket, he built a new life in Canada. It’s one that has brought him acclaim in the cycling world for his accomplishments and his craftsmanship as he now builds bikes by hand. With Marinoni, a much larger audience will get to know this inspiring man who happens to have bark that’s worse than his bite, at least once you get to know him.
“I was scared in the beginning.” explains Girardin. “I was like, this guy is explosive, he’s gonna rip my head off if I push him too much but it’s kind of what made him interesting.” This emotion that Girardin faced in the beginning is translated to the audience in the film, which opens in Marinoni’s workshop as Marinoni questions why Girardin would even bother to film him. Marinoni can’t understand why anybody would want to make a film about an old man who makes bikes, or races around in a circle over and over again, and it’s a very valid question, but the idea had been with Girardin for years.
Marinoni is the definition of hard working and dedicated. He also happens to be a bit of a lovable grump, making for a funny and touching film about his life, with the record only a small part of the real story.
“Honestly, I knew Marinoni because I used to be a collector, I used to find bikes on these little websites, go pick them up, and I’d bring them to him to get them restored, so it was over many years that I would go visit him and every time I would mention the idea of a movie and he was like ‘no, no, no I’m not interested’.” says Girardin. “Eventually when he decided to try the hour record he said ‘ah, that would be an interesting thing to film’.”
While it’s certainly interesting to see Marinoni work at breaking this hour record, the real enjoyment of the film comes from watching Girardin and Marinoni become closer over time. Although he seems like a bit of a grump at first, Marinoni starts to open up to Girardin over time, and watching the film is like building your own friendship with Marinoni. “I said to somebody one day it was like luring a mythical creature out of its den and having a camera on it to capture it.” Girardin jokingly explains. That is kind of the feeling that you get though, so bringing the viewer into the relationship that the two men build may seem like the only way many fans of Marinoni to have that level of friendship.
It was like luring a mythical creature out of its den and having a camera on it to capture it.
Girardin explained further how the record attempt is a part of the story, but not the most important. “Some people are like what’s the story arc of the film and then they start talking about the record and I’m like no, the record is like the needle to thread the story. The story is the man, the human being. The record itself is very fun and entertaining and exciting, but it’s really sort of a way to tie everything together.” This explains the vast appeal of the film as well. Girardin talked about the fact that when the film screened at the 2014 Hot Docs Film Festival, the lines were filled with cyclists at first, but later screenings expanded the audience to include people outside of the cycling community.
Cycling enthusiasts are obviously the most interested group at first, but it quickly changes once people have watched the film. They start to share the idea behind the movie, and how it is about cycling, but that it’s also about so much more. Even Girardin seems surprised, as he explained. “The whole thing is very unexpected, both the film and result its had so far. It’s been a wild ride. Everything from trying to convince Marinoni to make the film, then actually making it and then getting it out to festivals and releasing it, it’s been just a totally amazing experience.”