Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1968)

‘Les Bicyclettes de Belsize’, directed by Douglas Hickox in 1968, is a short British romantic vignette starring Judy Huxtable and Anthony May as a fashion model and a young man obsessed with her. May plays a cyclist who, after colliding with a billboard, becomes smitten with a girl. After a series of searches they finally meet in a park and leave together. The plot is wafer thin and the dialogue minimal. In style it takes after Jacques Demy’s musical movies including ‘Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’ and, particularly, ‘Les Parapluies de Cherbourg’, the French language title providing the obvious indication of the homage, but Hickox’s movie does not have the wit or surprising narrative twists of Demy. What it does have, however, is a sense of movement and pace. Like Patrick Keiller’s first Robinson movie ‘London’ and Norman Cohen’s ‘The London Nobody Knows’, ‘Les Bicyclettes de Belsize’ acts as a psychogeographical unpacking of London during a period of change. The real stars here are the locations as May cycles over the rooftops and around the streets of Hampstead. The opening shot is the highlight for me: an unbroken take, slowly taking in the details of the cityscape and then focusing on the smaller and more intimate activities within rooms, before panning across to May on his bike. It’s a small, light film but one that offers an essential snapshot of a city at the peak of its global fame.

Would I recommend it? It’s only 30 minutes long so yes. I’d watch in a double bill with either ‘London’, for a different time focus, or ‘The London Nobody Knows’ for another view of the 1960s.

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