Rapha’s Roll of The Dice

Monday, 16 August 2010

Swiss director Marcel Ophüls produced “The Sorry and The Pity”, a two-part documentary in 1969. The film was banned for many years in France because it touched on the raw subject of French collaboration with the Nazis during the period of occupation in the Second World War.

The film centres on Clermont-Ferrand, an industrial city in central France today famous as the home of Michelin and then part of occupied France, just down the road from Vichy, seat of the provisional government under Nazi rule. Why the French history and a Swiss documentary? Well because it includes footage of Raphael Geminiani, the former pro who’s name is part of the Rapha clothing brand.

“Gem” is seen talking at the start of Part II of the film and is questioned about the presence of German soldiers in Clermont. Raphael Geminiani’s statement so surprises Ophüls that he is compelled to quote Geminiani in writing, and I’ve put the screenshot above for you. To paraphrase him, he says he hardly saw any German troops. Only this suggests either “Gem” spent a lot, and I mean a lot, of time training and even more time asleep. Since the city was in fact practically over-run by Nazi troops, including the Waffen SS division and also Gestapo police.

This is a powerful film and in the space of a few seconds it manages to tarnish Geminiani’s reputation as a “champion” and make him look either stupid, forgetful… or someone embarrassed about what went on in his home city.

  • As a side issue, one thing that stood out for me was that whilst being interviewed for the film, Raphael Geminiani is playing with dice, you can just make them out in the screenshot above. So I can’t help making the link between Rapha, dice-rolling and myth-making. The British clothing brand has recently commissioned three short films on cycling and one is called “A Roll of The Dice”. Was this something that Ridley Scott Associates were referring to when they made the film? Perhaps not, the Rapha film is about chance, not denial, but any keen student of film and documentary might be aware Rapha rolling his dice in this Swiss film. Certainly the mention of the recent Rapha title was enough to remind me of Geminiani’s revisionism and to pass comment on this.

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