Short films can often become overlooked while searching for hidden cinematic gems from the past. This is particularly true of the 1969 Douglas Hickox short film, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize. The film is itself, a mini trip to, or back to, the heart of swinging 60s London. With its new wave vibe and strong sense of innocence and freedom, the film will leave you blissfully reminiscing in all that is 60s nostalgia.
The film’s plot is incredibly simple. Steve, played by Anthony May, takes a pleasant ride out on his bike one day, only to discover a large billboard featuring the photo of a model, named Julie, played by Judy Huxtable. Steve instantly falls in love, and so, takes his bike to the streets, in hope of finding Julie.
The film is, oddly, a musical, not as a huge Hollywood production with elaborate sets and gigantic scale, but as a small, personal, and strangely cheeky British affair. The film’s music is wonderful, capturing the sense of freedom and youthfulness felt during the 60s in London. And, is simple, yet playful and dream-like, filled with wonder and hope, much like the film’s characters.
Indeed, both Steve and Julie seem lost, at odds with the world, and in need of an expressive break from the environment of form and structure that surrounds them. They live in a dream separated from our world, one in which it is possible to instantly fall in love, and feel starry-eyed forever more. This idea may seem overly romantic to the less optimistic among us. But, to see a film from the past filled so much with love and wonder, one that may place a smile on your face, feels extremely refreshing when viewed today.
Also refreshing is the film’s camera work. Take particular note of its opening title sequence, in which the camera searches around the rooftops of London, looking into everyday lives, short stories are played out all around us. The film could easily follow any one of these stories during this Rear Window style camera shot. But, instead, looks onto just one, Steve, his dreams, and is bike. Also impressive, are the stylistic zooms and camera tracks the film employs, adding a clear, cool and breezy style, filled with free-flowing kinetic energy.
Unlike many short films made today, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is not one that takes itself too seriously. Instead, it completely embraces its own sense of silliness and child-like impulsiveness, at times, even using cartoon noises and effects for dramatic action. The film may also seem cheesy if viewed in the wrong way, however, the best way to approach this film is with an open mind, allow its story some room to move, and you will be rewarded greatly by its innovation and overall sweetness.
Les Bicyclettes de Belsize is a massively underrated film. And, is a universally unique experience to the world of cinema. So seek out this film, you will be viewing it for a second time before you know it.
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