I finally saw 'Fire in the Frame' last night. I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I had seen the trailers and read the reviews many times. I was at least half wrong. Yes it brought an aging craftsman who achieved a world record into the spotlight and shared his unique personality, but it was much more.
Giuseppe Marinoni was a slave to his own passion and work ethic for decades. To hear that he did not ride a bike for 20 years while creating some 20,000 frames astonished me. He did not simply ride bikes in his youth. He was a very successful racer, someone whose ticket to move to Canada from his native Italy was punched because of his prowess on a bike. For him to sacrifice something he so obviously loved to craft bike frames escalates the value of my own Marinoni exponentially. I have other bikes but they were all made in a faceless factory, Sophia's creator is a man that the film allowed us to get to know. It will be hard to pedal her without thinking of him.
My image of a frame builder was a romantic notion of a man in his little shop, drinking coffee and listening to music while fitting and welding together steel tubes and lugs. Then hopping on one of his own creations and going for a long afternoon ride. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
But he did start to ride again after his health began to fade. He talks about 100km rides like they are short hops to get coffee. I'm sure many in the crowd had no idea how difficult his record setting ride was. 35 km in an hour does not sound like an incredible distance. They would not understand how physically exhausting holding that average speed would be, nevermind his age. For his part he seemed to find more joy in discovering a cache of wild mushrooms than in setting the record.
Try as he might Marinoni could not discourage director Tony Girardin. He did not understand the interest in his life,
-how could me and my chickens be a movie?
He was a very reluctant subject, often telling him to stop filming as he was causing him stress. Initially he worried that like many others Girardin was trying to spy on his techniques,
-you want to film me to learn how to make bikes, go ahead but Martin (his employee) will tell you this is the worst welding I have done in 20 years because of the stress, so go ahead.
There were many humorous exchanges. When talking of his chickens Girardin asked if he ate them or just the eggs, Marinoni replied,
-after a few years we eat them but humans are so cruel, how can you kill a chicken?
Girardin then asked,
-so you have someone kill them,
- no I kill them but I get drunk first.
He joked with old friends in Italy that the only way the film would make money would be for him to die in his attempt at the record. He told the story of how his father left him a large plot of land, it was very narrow but also very long, it was the street in front of the family home. Of his tomato garden he said
- some men have many women, I have my tomatoes.
After setting the record he was asked so how did it go
-I didn't die... so pretty well
He is a very eccentric and endearing character and reminds me of someone closer to home that has given so much of his life to serving the bike community here in Thunder Bay.