Column: 35 years later, can ‘Breaking Away’ still compete?

BY JEFF LAFAVE

At what point does a modern classic become a relic of the past?

“Breaking Away,” the classic sports film based on IU’s famous Little 500 bike races, hit cinemas nationwide 35 years ago this summer. The July 1979 sports classic was a sleeper at the box office, but it was newspaper articles and a strong word-of-mouth reputation, reportedly — then a trusted American institution before Twitter, Facebook, and 24-hour cable news took our attention and never quite gave it back — that brought filmgoers to the movies in spades.

Director Peter Yates’ earnest film, written by IU graduate Steve Tesich, about four working-class Bloomington locals and their struggles in a college town even won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

…But does it hold the same weight in 2014?

Has it been replaced by modern, sexier, sleeker sports films with high-definition cameras? Does this old-timey, earnest film about a humble, self-contained Indiana community keep its wholesome nature intact — or does it banish “Breaking Away” to a select quadrant of the film community reserved only for the kitschy and left-behind as the film canon chugs along into 2014 and beyond?

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