Meet the BIKES of GIRL MEETS BIKE
1991 Moto Guzzi 1000s
949cc, stock Le Mans V engine, large valve head, 40mm del Orto carburetors, stock cam, Bub conti replica exhaust, 40mm Motocicliveloci clip-ons (Milan, Italy), Agostini rear sets, aftermarket headlight, euro-spec seat, new Borrani rims.
This is director Eric Tretbar's personal bike since 1995. Purchased with a handshake and a $150 deposit, this green monster was one of the first 1000s's in Minneapolis, home of more of them than anywhere else for some reason (Mississippi water, we believe). This Guzzi has been back and forth to L.A. a number of times, out to New York, to England to the Isle of Man TT, through the chunnel, down to its maker in Mandello, Florence, through Switzerland, down the German Autobahn where it did 130mph all day, then a weekend rest at the crazy Motorcycle Loft Hotel in Belgium after overshooting the entire country by 100 miles (Luxembourg goes by quickly at 130!). Actor, Ruth Menard, nicknamed it "the garbage truck" during production, unaccustomed to the Guzzi's cranky ways. But by the end of production, she confessed: "I think I kind of like it now."
1972 Norton Commando
883.5cc, Megacycle 560-20SSS cam, lightened rockers, chromoly pushrods, lightened and balanced crank, Keihin 35mm PWK carburetors, 60Hp rear wheel, stock frame, added front brace, 3rd isolastic head steady mount, GSXR front forks, SV650 brakes, GL1000 hub, 18" WM4 rim, Fabricated swingarm, KZ650 hub, 18" WM6 rim
Before lending his mad creation to the production, owner and builder, Kris Konig, issued a 5-page dossier on how to start, ride and maintain his high-strung menace (note the message on the swingarm). Though known for his sensitivity and charitable acts, Kris knows how to cut the purple phrases out of a technical manual and get down to business:
"NORTON NOTES - STARTING: I usually stand to the side of the bike on the center stand for starting. Turn on both fuel petcocks. Cold engine, pull both chokes, stage the kick starter, turn on ignition, and KICK (PUSH) ALL the way through the stroke like you mean it and have 100% confidence that you are starting this motherf*cker. A slight crack on the throttle during the kick is recommended. If you are a pussy about this the bike will not start, the lever may kick you back and sprain your ankle, and maybe you should not be riding my bike in the first place."
I guess I should have read this manual more closely before I kicked about 3/4 way through the stroke with 45% confidence while only HALF meaning it, and got a giant slap straight into my ankle 5 days before shooting. I then hobbled through 6 weeks of production, only learning to properly start the bike during the racetrack scene in which Kris starts the bike from the side with a motion I can only describe as suave (the scene where he starts the bike for Kat). I said: "Oh, THAT'S how you start that thing." Kris said: "It's all in the notes--you didn't read them, did you?" I said: "I did, but you never said to do it SUAVE!"
1968 Trimph Bonneville Rat Bike (FAR RIGHT bike)
744cc, JRC connecting rods, short stroke crank, Megacycle cam, 1972 oil-in-frame, bobbed and braced, GL1000 front end, CNC machined triple clamp, racing springs, Black Diamond valves, mild porting, duel 36mm flat-slide Mikuni carburators, tuned intake and exhaust lengths, Rickman production racer aluminum tank, custom seat from Norton original
1969 Triumph Tiger (FAR LEFT BIKE - owner Kris Konig)
1972 Honda CB350
ace bars, stock engine, sawed-off mufflers, loud and irritable
DVD REVIEW by Mark Bennett (DVD buyer, Kent, England - April, 2017)
Many thanks for the DVD which arrived in England this week and I thought it was very good. Great bikes, excellent sound quality, and the Moto Guzzi deservedly took centre stage, although from a purely visual perspective I guess the red hair and tattoos were fully its equal.
It's going to fall into the top five of my favourite motorcycle films. Well done indeed. (And I'm now hooked on looking for a Guzzi to buy!)
DVD REVIEW by James Graham (DVD buyer, California, USA - March, 2017)
I very much liked your movie and enjoyed the informative commentary! Great work; I'll count it among my best for the genre! It is extremely rare to see a movie depicting bikers minus the stereotypical horrific abuse of women, drugs, guns, gang violence, pervasive adult language, poor hygiene; all with shockingly bad social behavior in general.
It was also refreshing to see a movie without ridiculous expenditures of ammunition and explosives, excessively exaggerated violence, and unrealistic overwrought emotional turmoil.
Speaking to the pacing of interactions between characters, it was different and appreciated. Frequently in real life there are no scripted responses and conveniently witty replies at every moment. The characters often pause a bit thinking out the situation before speaking in some circumstances, which is true to life. So, in my opinion, very well acted and directed.
The musical score was original, which a fantastic escape from Top 40 Hits, or a reprise of common grandiose theatrical soundtracks orchestrated by well known theme music composers, which all begin to sound the same. I did not particularly mind the occasional repetition as it did fit the mood while lending some structure to the body of the film, simultaneously giving the movie its own personality.
As a guy who rides daily, I cheer you with mighty approval. Keep the rubber down and the shiny up!
REVIEW by John Cerilli, Vintagemotorcyclesonline.com
September 24, 2013 (http://www.vintagemotorcyclesonline.com/features/stories/268-reviewed-girl-meets-bike)
Eric is also an accomplished musician and his choices for background music shine through. This is his seventh feature film. One of the highlights of this movie is that Eric is an avid motorcycle enthusiast and rider. This clearly comes through in all the details about vintage bikes.
The iconic 1991 Moto Guzzi 1000S ridden by the main character Kat, a high school shop teacher who is smitten by this Italian V-twin. Although sometimes brooding and disaffected, she is fiercely independent, fearless, and free-spirited. Qualities that embodies most motorcycle riders, past and present. Actress Ruth Menard is excellent in this role.
The Moto Guzzi 1000S is Eric’s personal bike, and if one motorcycle is capable of earning a starring role, it's the 1000S. I enjoyed watching and listening to the other vintage bikes featured, including a 1972 Norton 750 Commando cafe' racer, a 1968 Triumph Bonneville rat bike, a classic red 1969 Triumph 650 Tiger and a cafe'd 1972 Honda CB350.
The other characters in the movie are interesting and unique, as well as the riding scenes and roads. The movie takes place outside of Milwaukee in the small towns of Wisconsin, but the scenes were shot mostly in Minnesota, a beautiful state to ride in during the summer months. I won’t give away any more about the story itself, but will conclude by saying if you like vintage motorcycles, action and drama, this is a movie you'll want to see. --JJ Cerilli
REVIEW by Andrew Thomas Evans, Wildguzzi.com
April 29, 2013 (http://wildguzzi.com/forum/index.php?topic=61578.0)
On Friday the movie played to what was a packed house and theater 3 in St. Anthony Main. I had seen the trailer, and well as an extended trailer in the fall, so I had a decent idea about the movie or at least some of the actors in it and some of the bikes. Although it didn’t need the help beers we had at the Aster and Pracna – as well as the after party by the Red Stag, didn’t detract from the film and, since we were drinking as a bike group, helped a bit get us a little more into the movie – clapping, cheering, and other things as the movie went.
This all said, I’m not a writer or great reviewer, and, spoiler alert, the bikes and the movie are awesome – which is the only reason to go see it. Anyway, the movie is about this girl who falls in love with an early 90’s 1000S Moto Guzzi. The bike, when new, was pretty awesome, now it looks like and was billed as a old horse that was rode hard and put away wet. Sure it still looks decent, but far from showroom, it has normal old bike issues, and they make some passing comments that it needs work or can’t be trusted too much – which is somewhat true for that brand sometimes…
From there the story goes into her learning how to ride it, meeting friends that ride, and the normal sex and nudity that I feel would fit right in with a vintage biker movie. In short she turned into a biker chick and was living the lifestyle for most of the movie. Although the story seemed slow at times, and some events not explained well enough for some, it (again) seemed to go back to more of a vintage feel where the movie was more about riding, sounds (we will get to sound), how the bikes looked, and the people on them. I won’t give away the end, however the movie to me isn’t about the end or really the story, it’s about the bikes and lifestyle.
Oh and this was all shot locally in Northfield Minnesota with a low budget, and friends as actors. None of that in any way takes anything from the movie, in fact the scenery there is great, the actors do a great job, it was shot and edited very well, and the sound is amazing – and actually made up of the specific bikes and dubbed in later, very well done.
So I talked about her bike, but the movie is more about a vintage café racer street bike group, or at least that’s the kind of bikes they ride. Nothing new, nothing stock, and no Harley’s are in this movie. Or, at least I didn’t remember anything new or stock, and I’m quite sure about no HD’s. So although it is like the old biker films, it’s also updated for the modern day with some pretty nice eye candy (in the bikes), well, and eye candy in the actors.
All in all it’s a great movie, a great bike movie, and anyone who enjoys biking, café racers, or just sitting down watching a few hours of biking fun, should get this movie.
Also, the director was talking about how some didn’t think it reflected the Guzzi brand – in the final cut there wasn’t much bad said about the brand, the bike, only that it was a once great and valuable bike that had seen it’s day and needed work. I feel, after seeing the film, it does a lot for the brand and I hope some people from the company will agree and use it or help market it.
In the mean time, everyone here should buy a copy, it's great, fun, and just a good time all around.
INTERVIEW with director, ERIC TRETBAR by Pacyfka in MotoMania Magazine, Poland (Aug, 2013)
Kat, the main character of your film, falls in love with Guzzi bike - at the first sight. And how did you "meet the bike"?
I fell in love with my Moto Guzzi at first sight in a Guzzi dealership located on a rustic Minnesota farm--which is frequently the case in the US. My friend was with me who also loved Guzzis and said: "if you don't buy it, I'm going to."
The dealer man was very casual and asked if I wanted to ride it. I couldn't believe he asked--like your dream girl or boy asking if you'd like to go straight to bed! We started it up outside on a bright October day, and immediately, the gearbox wouldn't go into gear. It had 9000 miles on it, but was in perfect condition. I thought this couldn't be good.
But the five Guzzi customers watching me smiled and said "It's a Guzzi. You have to roll it forward a bit so it can find the cog." I realized that even a new Guzzi was just like an old Guzzi...but then we fired it up and the low baritone note washed over me, I suddenly didn't care about the gearbox, my lack of money, or aything else. I was in love.
I rode carefully down the gravel road to the paved highway, then whacked open the throttle...very quickly, the tachometer read 8000, and I went to redline in each gear. Knowing that I was well over 100 mph (140kph), I slowed and saw the tach at 65--still probably about 110 mph. I passed a car, turned around, and returned to the farm with the biggest smile I'd had since I got to sit next to Jeanette Ashby in high school science class.
A new customer said: "You just passed me going pretty fast!" I said--not really--the speedometer said 65. He eyed the dealer man with an old-timer smile: "I think that was the tachometer he was looking at."
The dealer man asked if I'd like to buy it. He could see that I was "the one" for this bike, telling me he had rejected the continuing offer from an old bearded farmer who wanted to make this cafe racer into a chopper with high handlebars and a sheepskin seat. I said I wanted it badly, but just didn't have the money.
"Can you put some money down?" he asked.
I sighed deeply.
"Can you put ANYTHING down?"
I looked at my friend who had the money in his pocket.
I looked at my pathetic check book. "I could give you...$150," I said, sheepishly.
"Hm," said the dealer, unphased. "Well, when do you think you could have it paid off?"
"By the spring, probably--summer for sure."
I heard these words coming from my mouth as if spoken by someone else--someone who actually had several thousand dollars and the least idea where such money would come from. I had no idea, but suddenly, I realized that I'd just bought my dream bike with almost no money down and absolutely no credit. A handshake took the place of contracts and signatures--a farm deal between two people who believed in love--especially the green and black Moto Guzzi kind.
Do you remember the moment when for the first time in your life you thought - "movies - this is what i want to do in life"? Was there a specific movie that inspired you?
The moment I knew that Cinema was for me and I was for Cinema came in three parts. They were all during my undergraduate college years as a film student, and involved watching films during classes and examinations. The first was seeing Resnais' HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR. The ambiguous, complex, and very adult imagery and story showed me what films could be. The opening image of intertwined bodies sprinkled with sand and glitter could be lovers on the beach or corpses burnt by atomic heat--unforgettable, especially to my 19-year-old self!
The second film was L'AVVENTURA by Antonioni. I began as a still photographer, following the kind of artsy street photography of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Antonioni showed me that feature films could use precise compositions and highly-structured choreography. Resnais also used these techniques, appealing to my formalist tendencies.
The final inspiration came during a final exam where we were shown a scene from Fellini's LA DOLCE VITA. In it, two children lead a film crew and many "paparazzi" photographers on a goose chase, claiming to see a vision of The Madona. The children's vision is a hoax, but the rain is real--which comes pouring down like a natural miracle, bursting the hot movie lights to show even the sympathetic art of cinema who's boss. I realized that Fellini had expressed the mysterious origins and desires of art: nature, our intertwined human desires of spirit and flesh, and the constant interplay of illusion and reality--in religion, art, and everyday life. I realized that those were crucial considerations for me, and that cinema was the most powerful and beautiful means of expressing them. It was also pure fun.
I later went through other periods--Godard (BREATHLESS), Bergman (THE SEVENTH SEAL), Kieslowski (RED, WHITE, BLUE), and Frankenheimer (GRAND PRIX, RONIN). My favorites today are Michael Haneke (THE WHITE RIBBON) and Christian Mungiu (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS). I also owe my practical beginning to Jim Jarmusch whose 1984 film, STRANGER THAN PARADISE, showed me that the street photography of Robert Frank could even tell a story (minimal as it was). My best friend and I were watching the film, and said to each other: "This is like a Robert Frank photo that MOVES." In the credits, we saw Jarmusch's thank you to "Robert Frank". Young and dumb as we were, we said: "That can't be THE Robert Frank..." Of course it WAS. Frank lived a few doors from Jarmusch in New York and was something of a mentor to him. Now we know!
How does it work - being indie filmmaker in XXI century? Internet created kind of "download culture", but on the other hand, reaching everyone in the world with our message has never been so easy..
The tradition question in Cinema, posed by Andre Bazin's seminal book, WHAT IS CINEMA?, is now largely a settled question. There is so much information about filmmaking with "making of" documentaries, that the grammar and construction of films (shot, reaction shot, "point-of-view", deep focus, shallow focus, etc) are long-settled aesthetics.
Contained in your question is the new, fascinating question which is deeply changing the nature and language of cinema: WHERE IS CINEMA? We can watch movies on our cell phones now, or computer, or home screen over Sony Playstation.
The irony of internet connectivity which has already become a movie and cliche is "TOGETHER/ALONE". The more connected we are via new media, the more isolation and alienation, too. Antonioni's fashionable 1960s social, spiritual, and philophical alienation is nothing compared to our new media alienation. He was worried that endless blocks of post-WW2 apartments and factory jobs separated people from each other and their true selves. But the internet allows people to disconnect THEMSELVES from their own bodies, rendering real time and space almost a quaint relic of the past as we begin to abandon our bodies in favor of virtual identities and lives.
I made a small point of this in GIRL MEETS BIKE with Kat's boyfriend, James. He's a computer guy while she's moving into a completely PHYSICAL world of motorcycles. And that's a very appealing part of motorcycling which most of us riding bikes consciously discuss. Your cellphone, computer, email and internet can come along for the ride. But when you're ACTUALLY RIDING, you want and NEED to concentrate fully on driving. If you don't, you could kill yourself. In this age of "multi-tasking", it's refreshing to do one thing completely, without distraction or thought to your smartphone.
Being an indie filmmaker in the 21st century means speaking the classical language of Cinema with rapidly-changing technologies. Cinema was born of a new technology in 1885 (the movie camera), and is now changing with our digital technolgies. The basic grammar of movies remains unchanged (shot, reaction shot, wide shot, dolly, point-of-view, etc). But the SCALE of the image is wildly CHANGEABLE. This creates the biggest problem for Cinema today. I must compose a shot that works simultaneously on a theatrical screen 15 meters wide, a TV screen 1 meter wide, a computer 50cm and a cellphone 8cm. It's almost impossible to frame compositions which simultaneously work at the scale of Picasso's GUERNICA and a postage stamp.
The social consequences of the internet may be even more significant. The actual meaning of a film is created by the audience: total strangers sit in a dark room in public and, together, experience a waking dream. Their reaction is a mix of their own life experience and expectations, combined with the reactions of people around them. We gasp, laugh, criticize, cry, condemn and empathize together--sometimes BECAUSE of each other. A serious film can become a comedy to a raucous college audience, and a funny film can meet the silence of humorless government censors.
The problem today is that the internet allows people to watch films alone at their convenience. That's great, because it allows people to see ALL of world cinema that was once unavailable. But Cinema is a public, social art. When we lose the common, public experience of watching a film, we lose that socially-created meaning. And the MEANING of any movie contributes a small part to any society's overall culture.
The internet's "download culture" also created the desire for FREE downloads. If it's not already free, someone will post a song or film, to "give it" to the world for free. This started in the early 1990s as a reaction to the music industry's greed in the change from vinyl records to plastic CDs. The record companies wanted us all to buy our existing record collection ALL OVER AGAIN, and we were mad! Plus, their price went from $8.00 for a $1.50 manufacturing cost to $13.00 for a $0.50 manufacturing cost. That's what REALLY made people mad. In reaction, people said SCREW THE INDUSTRY--and Napster was born.
The problem for indie FILLMMAKERS now is that the same attitude now exists for MOVIES. People transferred their "punish-the-greedy-company" attitude from the music to the film industry. But even a small indie film costs 1000s of times more to create than a CD/album, and people still want it for free. The only solution we indies see is the honor system where people recognize that we are the little guy who can't afford to give 4 or 5 years of unpaid work away for free. Ask anyone if they would go to their job for 5 years for nothing. That's the harsh reality of indie filmmaking. We do it because we love it, yes! (And we do mostly live on love, it's true--some of us even die of it in the Romantic style!) But we also have to pay the rent.
Ultimately, we filmmakers know the internet helps us get our films out to wider audiences, and that's great. The best part is meeting your "kind" of people around the world and forming new alliances, but you miss having a scene that exists in real space. It sometimes feels like what Homer Simpson said about beer after guzzling down a can: "Ah, beer...the cause and solution of all problems!"
You made your first film in 1992. How has filmmaking changed since that time?
The practical challenges of filmmaking remain exactly the same. Cheaper cameras and limitless "film" (memory cards) to shoot don't alter the fact that TIME is the non-negotiable element: the time to write the script (1 year), shoot it (1-2 months), and edit it (1-2 years). Yes, you can do it faster, but more time equals more quality--of camera work, actor performances, nuance in sound and picture design.
The real change is, again, the feeling of isolation among indie filmmakers. Before the internet, you HAD to go to cinematheques and film societies to see the movies you loved and that influenced you (such as HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR). At these screenings, you'd meet "your kind" of filmmakers, then go out and argue all night over beer and coffee.
Now, there are on-line chats about all this--but it lacks the romanticism of those late-night sessions. I did find this to still exist when I went to a film festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was like Paris in the 60s--a cinematheque on every corner, and impassioned film students and makers arguing aesthetics all night. Ahhh.
A natural part of filmmakers' isolation is simply becoming a working professional. Godard, Truffaut, Kieslowski and Holland talk about getting so busy MAKING films once their careers were underway that they no longer had time to meet their cinema friends and "talk film" as they had in their student days. They miss the comraderie and dreams of their youth. But dreams give way to realities of actually MAKING films, although every film begins as a dream in the mind of the filmmaker. I still enjoy this time most in the whole process, sitting alone, daydreaming about a new story idea--how it will feel, be shot, be cast, be cut. Then you begin to write, shoot and edit, and all your dreams are cut down to your budget, time restrictions and other resources. That's just how it is, but I try to return to my original dream as I'm making a film and experience those original emotions again.
Why is a woman a main character in your film? If it was a movie about a boy, would it have the same meaning?
I intentionally told a woman's story since the built-in social tensions, expectations and pressure accentuate the drama. GIRL MEETS BIKE is an education plot, but making the student female and the teacher(s) mostly male, it's a story of a woman in a mostly male world of motorcycling. I learned from Melissa Holbrook-Pierson's amazing and poetic book, THE PERFECT VEHICLE, that since 1900, 8-12% of motorcyclists have consistently female. But, first time buyers of new motorcyles are 30% female today.
Female riders are an growing group, but a woman coming into a mostly male group of riders is always subject to romantic advances and flirtations disguised as offers of assistance. It's no surprise that women receive a lot of (sometimes unwanted) attention since they're rare in the bike world. And the sexuality that is a natural part of the motorcycle world is played for comedy, drama, romance. I haven't met any motorcyclists who don't have a sense of humor about the fact that we're all riding around on giant phallic symbols. And when a woman takes control of her own phallic rocket, the fur is going to fly!
If this were a male main character, the conflicts of interest might not be so plain to see. You could still have unwanted advances (from women AND men, as it is in GIRL MEETS BIKE); but the cultural assumptions for men are usually that they don't need (or want) help. I like giving certain behaviors to characters you don't expect them from. That makes them clearer to the audience, and actually makes the audience see themselves more in a character who doesn't exactly resemble them.
I also like to see a woman doing all the things men are rewarded for (independence, mechanical competence, willfullness, sexual desire), because we all KNOW women like this (or we ARE these women:), but they are rarely ALLOWED in cinema because of moral restrictions which are beyond obsolete--they're actually harmful. But attempts to control women with morality persist. If a man can't control a woman sexually (by having her to himself), he can try to control her morally (by calling her a whore). This childish reaction to not getting his own way still runs across all cultures, even "liberal" and "progressive" cultures. I happen to believe that men and women are largely the same, with equal abilities and desires. I prefer to show the world as I wish it to be: women doing what they want, when they want, and men and women actually getting along with friendship, wit, and a sexy sense of humor.
I am so moved with Kat's story - I feel it is also a story about me and my life, finding my way towards freedom on the back of steel horse. I hope "GMB" will give a lot of women an inspiration to change their lives too. (Those, who haven't started this path yet)
Even before the film is done, I've had many wonderful reactions from women who I've told the story to. Many have said: "That's me! That's my story!" This was also my sister's story, and I dedicate much of this movie to her and her courage to get a bike, learn to ride (within one month!), then have a big crash which took her off of it. I don't know if she'll return, but she did everything with such gusto, that I had to laugh!
I was in Los Angeles with my motorcycle one summer just after her divorce, and she asked if she could ride on back into town. I was puzzled since I thought she hated motorcycles. "No," she said, "my ex-HUSBAND was the one who didn't like them." Ahhhhh. So she climbed on, we rode fast through Laurel Canyon, and when we arrived, she said: "I LOVE IT! I'M GETTING A MOTORCYCLE!" I asked her if she'd ever driven a motorcycle before. "No, but I can learn!"
She signed up for a state class, but before she even knew how to start a bike, she bought a 1972 BMW R60/5 which is quite a heavy (and difficult) first bike! I told her maybe she should start with something like a Honda 350, but she would not even consider anything but the BMW. She was in love and HAD to have it. "OK," I said, "But it's gonna be pig to ride!"
She took the class, was the best student out of 40--and the only woman. The instructor was so impressed, he gave half the class to her to teach turning and braking. The next week, I came home to her apartment and found her and the BMW gone. I called her and asked where she was. "Oh, I'm in Simi Valley visiting a guy I met at the cafe."
"WHAT???" Simi Valley was about 100 km away from her apartment and she had only been riding for 2 weeks! She had ridden that heavy, uncooperative BMW all the way through Los Angeles traffic and arrived safely. I was quite impressed! No one could tell her what to do, and haven't we all felt that way?
What I like about GIRL MEETS BIKE is that it's a beginner's story which, like any beginner's story, is really about a person having to do something BY HERSELF, FOR HERSELF, with NO ONE'S HELP. All parents have to watch their children grow up and make mistakes. And all motorcyclists make similar mistakes, too--especially being overly-confident from your incredible LUST to ride! Overall, I hope the film will inspire more women to ride so that motorcycling ceases to be a "man's world". But I also hope that men also see themselves in the story of Kat, since each one of us had a bike which was our "first love". And like the first boy or girl who noticed us when we were teenagers, our "first love" was maybe not the perfect or even appropriate one for us. Thus the pain, the confusion, danger and comedy!
And what are your experiences with Poland - Polish movies, audience, people?
I brought my first film to the Warsaw Film Festival in 1992. I'm sure it's a different world now, but I have very fond memories. One of them is that CB (citizen band) radios had just been made legal, so everyone had a CB radio in almost every room. It was quite funny to me, since there was a CB Radio craze (fashion) in the U.S. when I was 10 years old (same time as the movie SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT which featured CB Radios).
I was most impressed in Poland by the sense of culture in everyone I met. Of course, I was meeting very intelligent, sophisticated people working around the film festival, but I had the sense that it wasn't just intellectuals who valued Chopin and Kieslowski and poetry. I felt it everywhere I went. I also received a great punk rock album from my guide by a Solidarity-era band called DEZERTER. It was great to find punk rock in common across the world, and also Cinema. The questions I was asked were quite serious and aesthetic after my screening, compared to the very frivolous and practical questions you usually get in the U.S. ("What is your budget?" or "What kind of camera did you use?")
I know mostly the old Polish Cinema--Wadja, etc--but am still a disciple of Kieslowski, although I'm sure many considered him to have defected to France for his last few films. Recently, it suddenly struck me what DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE is about, after years of thinking it was simply a structural game: HE is Veronique, with one self still living spiritually in Poland, content; and the other self, now in Paris, but mysteriously drawn to Poland.
You'll see many male art-film directors use female characters to camouflage their self-portraits, as da Vinci is now supposed to have done with THE MONA LISA. I think male artists are frequently as much feminine as masculine (we're not usually football hooligans:), so we identify with female consciousness and experience. Because social attitudes attribute emotions and complexity to women, too, female characters create a wider range of dramatic possibilities for the screenwriter. Of course, this suggests that there is an unwritten cinema of TRUE male experience which is just as nuanced and complex as "female" experience, but remains hidden BECAUSE of social expectations.
But back to Poland! I have several friends here in the U.S. who have recently visited Poland--for school, for skiing, and cinema who all say that Berlin is now too expensive, Prague is "finished" many years ago, and that the next "big" city in Europe is Warsaw. So let's go!
Being an artist has never been easy, we say "only hungry artist is trustworthy". The more you want to be true to yourself, the more difficulties you meet?
I have never quite had the opportunity to "sell out", that is, to betray my ideals, convictions or aesthetics for a large bag of money. Because my films have been small, I've made them on my own terms, according to my own design and beliefs. I've been forturnate to find good financiers to work with who let me do the art while they did the money. But I would very much like to have bigger budgets so that I can execute my ideas more completely.
You can ALWAYS use more money in cinema, because it buys more shooting days. But the more money you have, the more people are looking over your shoulder "making sure" that nothing is wasted. Sometimes, they even insists that you DO waste money on things you find unnecessary, but are matters of professional protocol to satisfy big actors...I am trying to find larger budgets for bigger productions. But so far, I am very happy with the 7 films I've made. All films have compromises due to limited resources. But the few times I have met the possibility to go down the wrong road, my instinct steered me back toward myself and everything was fine.
Art and bikes in one movie, how do you think an audience is gonna react to that mixture?
I think many people will, at first, find the movie to be unfamiliar. That is, they expect an exploitation film with cartoon emotions and silly kitsch actions. That audience (who loves Tarantino) will think--wait, this is serious! The serious art audience will initially be horrified by the bad behavior, beer guzzling, sex and obnoxiously-loud motorcycles. But isn't sex and bad behavior the meat and potatoes of art films?
What makes me happy is that usually, people will come back to me two or three weeks later after seeing my film and say: "I didn't know what to think of your movie at all. It wasn't what I expected. But I've kept thinking about it. It keeps coming back to me..." That's exactly my intention, and the way that Cinema works on a deep level. When that happens, it means people's deep subconscious has been affected and is processing the film--even when their conscious mind may have dismissed it.
Cinema is dreaming with your eyes open. That's a confusing concept in itself, so I'm not surprised that my films take a while to "sink in". Stanley Kubrick's films sometimes took 20 years to sink in, so if I improve as a filmmaker, people may take longer and longer to know what they think after viewing. But there's only one way to find out!
INTERVIEW with director, ERIC TRETBAR (June, 2012)
"Freedom, danger, defiance and escape--motorcycles have always been about cultural and sexual anxieties," says Minneapolis-based filmmaker, Eric Tretbar. "I asked myself how this applies to our generation. Instead of the postwar Beatnik anger of THE WILD ONE or the drug culture of EASY RIDER, GIRL MEETS BIKE shows a young woman's very intimate quest for freedom--one which stirs up complex desires."
GIRL MEETS BIKE is a motorcycle film, Tretbar says, with all the details motorcycle riders will recognize from their own stories of falling in love with their first bike. "But I wanted to use the motorcycle as not just a symbol of freedom, but as an actual FEELING--because that's what we all love about riding--the physical sensation--the speed, the vibration, the sound."
The film starts with a feeling of desire--of lust, even--when the "girl" (Kat) first sees the bike and falls in love. "It's love at first sight," Tretbar says, "but not exactly how you think. That's the trick of this story. I'm playing with the old chesnut 'boy meets girl'. But when Kat falls for a motorcycle, she can't literally love a machine--so how do you build a human element into the story?"
Tretbar surrounds Kat with a group of motorcycle friends who invite her into their circle. She buys her bike from one of the friends who competes with the others for Kat's affections. "But Kat isn't looking for a new lover," Tretbar says, "she's out to find her own path which only she can take. The catch is, all beginners have to take advice from their teachers. But when her teachers are potential love interests, there's a conflict which is the heart of the film."
The origin of this story, Tretbar says, is a friend who bought her first motorcycle after a divorce and was soon riding, wild and free. "I thought to myself--wow! You'd NEVER see a woman like THIS in a mainstream movie. She'd eventually regret her wild ways and return to the status quo. I want to change that! We all know and love women who dare to live by their own rules, but you rarely see them on the screen. I want to make a movie which actually rewards that woman's freedom instead of punishing her for it. Beneath the visual beauty of the film--the lush Minnesota landscapes--is a very challenging story."
Tretbar smiles at GIRL MEETS BIKE's combination of motorcycles and art film styling. "I can just hear it now: 'You got motorcycles in my art film!' ... 'Well, you got art on my motorcycle movie!' I always figure if you upset both sides equally, you've gotta be doing something right!"
So what kind of movie is GIRL MEETS BIKE? "It's a love story, but not the kind you think. The real difficulty in making a motorcycle movie is the expectations from older films. Except for a few greats like THE WILD ONES and EASY RIDER, motorcycles movies are mostly exploitation films like WILD ANGELS. Those films are a lot of fun, but I wanted to make something more realistic. Motorcycles can obviously express something raw and powerful--that's how the exploitation films use them. But they can also express something subtle and extremely personal. And you don't need any philosophical speeches. The bike does all the talking."
ARTICLE by Monika Pacyfka Tichy (January 8, 2013)
Polish Motorcycle Magazine motoRmania.com.pl
(March 29, 2013) INTERVIEW with Monika Pacyfka Tichy in MOTORMANIA magazine (Poland):
REVIEW by YouMotorcycle.com (Jan.7, 2014)
Girl Meets Bike Review
Are you bike-curious? Girl Meets Bike is a motorcycle flick that accurately captures a part of the urban motorcycle scene. It’s visually orgasmic and the story paints an honest picture of the good and bad sides of our culture.
I originally came across and wrote about Girl Meets Bike in October, 2013, when I covered The 2013 Motorcycle Film Festival Winners. I wrote:
There was one movie that I didn’t see in the winners list but that I felt deserved some kind of recognition… It was the story of a female tech. teacher who leaves her controlling fiance, cashes in her wedding dress, and buys a motorcycle. Not just any bike either. She picks up a beautiful 1991 Moto Guzzi 1000S. She learns to ride, and before long departs on her first “long” trip. Motorcycle philandering ensues.
There are so many elements at play that ring a sense of familiarity here. Maybe it’s having had birthday dinner with MISSRIDER, the North and Central America conquering school teacher from Massachusetts. Maybe it’s the school teacher that I know who’s flirted with the idea of getting a motorcycle, and all of the things I think it could do for her self-esteem. Maybe it’s the simple fact that everyone in the trailer actually looks like every day real life motorcyclists, and not drawn up or over-the-top. These people could be my friends. They’re normal. They’re real. Maybe it’s the element of escapism that motorcycles bond with so well. The act of running away from responsibilities, pressures, social norms, and the rest of the bull**** we call “life”.
I’ve taken that trip. I’ve got on my bike and rode away from it all. I’ve met some amazing people along the way. I’ve seen many female riders coming up. I’ve watched as they struggled to determine which men were trying to help them develop themselves as strong confident riders, and which men wanted to keep them dependent. If the film does as good of a job capturing all of those sentiments as the trailer leads me to believe it, than Girl Meets Bike is probably a great flick.
I sent an email to the makers of Girl Meets Bike and promptly got a reply from Eric Tretbar:
Everything you said was precisely my intentions with the story, casting and shooting of the film. The films in the Fest were mostly builder videos (including the excellent White Knuckle) or, as one female viewer told me later, the things you either expect or have seen in biker films, including some cliches. I sifted through all this same cultural material and although I, like many if the other films, use the bike as a vehicle to freedom, I’m very proud to show a woman’s story.
As you put it so well, the most fundamental choice is whether to choose men who encourage independence or dependence. (And that goes for all friends and lovers, male and female!) That’s exactly what I’ve observed since I began riding over 20 years ago.
Eric sent me a copy of Girl Meets Bike for me to watch, along with a patch and a post card. I popped in the movie on a cold wet winter day when I had no reason and no will to fire up my motorcycle. These are the days movies are made for.
Girl Meets Bike has a slow warm up the characters. Early in the film dialogue is used sparingly and you’ll have to pay close attention and study the characters to really see the feelings and signals they express. This was frustrating at first and reminded me a time when I lived in France and the French “Drame Psychologique” style of film. I mentioned this to Eric, he said:
“I knew that stylistically, I was taking some chances–but we filmmakers have to give ourselves some treats, too. The strange thing I’ve experienced is that if a film is perfect from the git-go, it can seem dated and trite in even 5 years. And each film has its own inner logic and emotion which somehow, the filmmaker must follow. Hopefully, those elements of GMB that feel strange will ripen with time, as I’ve seen with some of my heroes like Kubrick and Kieslowski.
Yes, I am an art-film lover ( and maker) so viewers expecting over-the-top blood and gore of an exploitation film or histrionics of Faster Pussycat may be surprised. But I’ve had an 80-year-old couple give me the best compliment. The next day after seeing it, they said that images just stuck with them.
That’s my hope is that the film will come back to you and you’ll roll it around in your mind and body. It’s a slow burn approach rather than the Tarantino style of slap in the face–which can be fun, but can also wear off just as fast.”
Visually however, Girl Meets Bike was absolutely stunning. It was the kind of movie you could leave playing on your television at your next party with your motorcycle buddies, on mute, and people would still stop to watch. I’m not saying you couldn’t have a bunch of friends over to watch the movie, I’m just saying from an eyes-only perspective, it was beautiful. The soundtrack was well mixed as well. The French influence picked up again in the music in a few points in the film but they didn’t draw away from the stage that was set.
When I began watching the film I assumed I would love it. These types of great expectations before writing a review can lead to terrible disappointment, terrific confirmation, or self-fulfilling prophecy. In my case, I was thoroughly satisfied with the film. The story was a real gem. Kat is the lead character who struggles with her learning to ride and friends with questionable intentions. Throughout the film she stays true to her moral compass and her mantra. It makes her spectacular and draws us to her. She’s what we want to do and what we want to be, and to experienced riders, she’s what we all have been too.
“Kat is difficult for some viewers to like because she’s not smiling and apologetic and demure. But that’s THEIR problem, not hers. And for every viewer who calls her cold or selfish, there are 10 who say–yes! She’s courageous to do what she wants.”
- Eric Tretbar
Kat just follows her gut and goes for it. What she wants to do, she does. She doesn’t beat around the bush or shy around the topic. Kat just might have more balls than most of the male motorcyclists I know. As Tret mentioned, some people might take issue with Kat: She’s somewhat of an introvert. She is the cause of some grief among her friends who seem to always be fretting about her. There’s no one thing about her that makes her particular hot. She isn’t a typical Hollywood heroine. She is just a combined sum of traits and characteristics. I found her very likeable.
The cast did a great job as well. These were real motorcyclists. I’m not much of a film critic, but suffice it to say the friends looked just like your motorcycle riding friends, and they looked just like my motorcycle riding friends. This was a movie about dropping society’s conventions and norms and joining the world of motorcycling. It was a motorcyclist’s story, and it was played by motorcyclists. They captured a piece of the fabric woven into the urban motorcyclist culture. I don’t know if Girl Meets Bike is a flick for everyone, but it captures passion for riding and a zest for living life. If you don’t find any appeal in motorcycling, you may still find some appeal in Kat living her life to the fullest, however she sees fit.