Cycling Doc ‘Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame’ Is an Uphill Climb


In bland racing doc Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame, filmmaker Tony Girardin indecisively juggles several angles in his attempts to explain the competitive genius of 75-year-old bicycle-maker and racing cyclist Giuseppe Marinoni. He ultimately focuses on Marinoni as a cranky workaholic driven to break a racing world record, but still paints a frustratingly vague portrait of the craftsman, husband and athlete, partly because nobody seems to want (or even know how) to describe Marinoni’s character. The man himself shoos Girardin away whenever the pushy documentarian tries to film him working on bikes; talking-head subjects provide banal answers to personality-quiz-style questions. Asked for a one-word description of Marinoni, one bicycle vendor calls him “stubbornly passionate.”

Marinoni’s shortcomings as a character study are most apparent during interviews with Jocelyn Lovell, an award-winning American cyclist whose racing career was cut short by a car accident. Lovell’s self-aggrandizing sense of humor — he jokes that he became paralyzed at 33, the same age that Jesus Christ was crucified — makes him a welcome presence. But in addition to never asking thoughtful follow-up questions, Girardin resorts to voice-over narration to summarize the two cyclist’s interactions and often reduces Lovell’s commentary to un-revealing soundbites. First Lovell matter-of-factly confesses that neither he nor Marinoni can explain their passion for cycling. Then he suggests that Marinoni is a role model because he taught Lovell to “never give up, never quit.” Like the rest of the film, Lovell’s heavily edited testimony makes Marinoni sound generically obsessive and maddeningly inaccessible.

Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame
Directed by Tony Girardin
First Run Features
Now playing, Cinema Village