We’ll be focusing on two scenes in “A Sunday in Hell” today. One is kind of bizarre and the other is awe inspiring.
The first scene looks like it was created by David Lynch, not Jorgen Leth. It’s a French pub crowded with fans following the race on the radio. Nearly everyone is smoking. The place has the most hideous wallpaper I’ve ever seen – wavy black, brown, white and gold stripes climbing up the wall. I imagine this is what one sees on a bad acid trip or after banging one’s head on the pave. The men – most with long sideburns, floppy collars blooming out of leisure suits – are drinking beer from tall, skinny glasses. The last shot is of a strange guy in his 20s dressed in a black suit with a bright red carnation sticking out of his coat pocket. True, in a Lynch flick, the guy would be a dwarf. Still, it’s weird.
The second scene begins with Roger DeVlaeminck sending two of his Brooklyn riders up the road. Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens have finally caught up with DeVlaeminck’s group, so it’s time to shake things up again. “This breakaway is a tactical maneuver,” the narrator says, adding that the two riders aren’t real threats in the race. “They’ve been sent by DeVlaeminck with the intention of forcing his rivals to greater activity. It’s obvious that DeVlaeminck wants to dictate how the race is ridden this year. He’s on the offensive, even with this ploy by his own support riders.”
Next we see the riders rolling into a feed station and many of the domestiques are quitting the race. Some will bum a ride off of spectators, who will take them to Roubaix.
The narrator gets back to the action: “The two Brooklyn attackers still have a slight advantage, but it can’t go on for long because Merckx asusual has assumed the role that all the others are eager to see him in – the lead position. Once in front, he heads the pursuit like a locomotive. It falls into place for DeVlaeminck. Merckx now has to ride after the breakaway that DeVlaeminck has organized. Merckx is causing the group to string out.”
As the narrator describes the action, we see a fantastic aerial shot of Merckx, who looks desperate as he powers over the cobbles pushing a huge gear, his bike bouncing over the bigger chunks of pave. It’s a wonderful shot of one of the greatest athletes ever doing what he does best: hammering down a road, inflicting intense pain on the competition There are about 40 riders behind Merckx, and they seem to be struggling to stay on his wheel. Once when I showed this movie to a small group of my riding mates, everyone was chatty during the first part of the movie. But when we got to this scene, everyone fell silent, put their beers down and just watched in awe.wafflesandsteel | Filed under: "A Sunday in Hell", Eddy Merckx, Jorgen Leth, Paris-Roubaix, Roger DeVlaeminck | No Comments »