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Motorcycles on Screen

Home > Brisbane > Art | Cinema | Exhibitions | Film Reviews | Free
by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Event: -
Enjoy a great escape
Motorcycles on Screen is a major film programme of over 50 titles screening at the Gallery of Modern Art for the duration of their Motorcycle Exhibition: Design, Art, Desire until 26 April. You can read my review of the Motorcycle Exhibition here. The free film programme is curated by Robert Hughes who is the Assistant Curator of Australian Cinematheque at QAGOMA.

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape
Motorcycle Exhibition (May Cross)


Motorcycles on Screen explores cinema depictions of motorcycles from around the world, looking back at more than a century of motorcycles on the big screen. It includes iconic classics such as The Wild One (1953), Easy Rider (1969) (which is a personal favourite), cult movies like Scorpio Rising (1963) and Akira (1988), and recent films, for example, The Wild Goose Lake (2019). The many films explore themes of rebellion, freedom, and daring-do, as well as examining the motorcycle's history and even looking ahead to the roles it may play in future societies. Cue Terminator (1984).

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape, indian
World's Fastest Indian (May Cross)


Since the early days of the moving image, filmmakers have been drawn to the cinematic appeal of the motorcycle. The breakneck (literally) speed and stunts, the unmistakable designs, the roaring and revving of engines, all provide many aesthetic possibilities for tales on the screen. Beyond the sound and visual treat of the bikes themselves, we are fascinated with dangerous biker gangs and the use of motorcycles as common transport.

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape
Rare Archival Footage at the Motorcycle Exhibition (May Cross)


Showcased are movies from the silent era through to the present day including classics such as Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, The Great Escape (1963), Easy Rider (1969), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and iconic Australian films like Stone (1974), Mad Max (1979), Shame (1988) and Finke: There and Back (2018). Excerpts from many of these films and many others, along with rare archival footage and contemporary video artworks centred on the motorcycle will be featured in each space in the Motorcycle Exhibition.

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape
Films and Motorcycles (May Cross)


The chosen films mix Hollywood classics that helped define motorcycles in popular culture with lesser-known but captivating movies. Seating is general admission and the ushers will ensure all audience members in the cinema follow COVID-safe seating arrangements. As seating is limited, I recommend arriving early to avoid disappointment. For the full programme click here or see Facebook

steve, mcqueen great escape triuph
Image courtesy of GOMA


Motorcycles on Screen Curator's Pick: 'The Great Escape'
'The Great Escape' screens on Sunday 21 March 2021 at 1.30 pm, FREE at QAGOMA Cinema A.
One of the most memorable scenes in cinema history is Steve McQueen making a bid for freedom on a stolen military motorcycle in The Great Escape. Whether you are a motorcycle fan or not, the image of McQueen''s character riding away from a German POW camp in this epic film sticks in the mind, along with the unforgettable music (I am whistling it to myself as I write this). What you may not know is the bike should have been a German Army BMW but was actually a dressed-up Triumph TR6 which McQueen loved, as did my father Jim.

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape, triumph
1940 Triumph ST5 (May Cross)


Picture him (Steve not Jim) fleeing his German captors and being caught between the heavily armed soldiers and a barbed-wire fence. No problem for Steve. He accelerates and daringly attempts to jump over the fence. Does he leap and escape? No spoiler here - you'll just have to watch this cinema classic if you haven't seen it already. It is definitely worth revisiting on the big screen even if you have seen it. And that is why Steve McQueen was the coolest man on Earth.

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape triump bonneville
Triumph Bonneville 1961 (May Cross)


As Criterion said, 'One of the most exciting adventure tales ever told, this action epic recounts the planning, execution, and aftermath of a daring true-life escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, in which 250 men attempted to tunnel their way to freedom. In the role that cemented his superstar status, Steve McQueen plays the motorcycle-racing daredevil who sets out to foil the Nazis, alongside an all-star cast that includes Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Garner, and Donald Pleasance. The expert direction of John Sturges, eminently hummable Elmer Bernstein score and rip-roaring stunts come together in what may just be the most spectacularly entertaining prison-break movie of all time, a rousing ode to the determination, camaraderie, and courage of everyday heroes.'

orpheus motorcycle, film, cinema
Image courtesy of GOMA


Motorcycles on Screen Curator's Pick: Orpheus
Orpheus screens on Saturday 10 April hosted FREE by QAGOMA in Cinema A at 3.00 pm.

Orphee or Orpheus is French director Jean Cocteau's lyrical retelling of a Greek myth. It stars the dashing Jean Marais, who was Cocteau's longtime muse and lover, as Orpheus, a famous poet, who moves through a dream-like underworld for his mysterious Eurydice. This tale of mirrors features two motorcycles, a 1937 Chief and a 1940 Sport Scout. Orpheus is a surrealist masterpiece of French cinema. It is black and white in French and has English subtitles. It will screen from a 2K digital restoration. Check out facebook

'This intensely personal reworking of the Orpheus legend is probably Cocteau's most influential cinematic achievement. He uses reverse slow-motion and negative images to suggest the Underworld, while the ordinary domestic life of Mr and Mrs Orpheus is filmed realistically, elaborating the theme of the poet caught between real and imaginary worlds. This haunting and visually striking film is amongst the most remarkable attempts to fuse poetry and cinema.' (Melbourne Cinematheque).

motorcycle diaries film
Image courtesy of GOMA


Motorcycles on Screen Curator's Pick: The Motorcycle Diaries
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) or will screen from an archival 35mm print on Sunday 25 April, hosted by QAGOMA at 11.00 am and is FREE. This delightful hit film is based on a novel by Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Alberto Granado. Filmed in South America, it is in Spanish with English subtitles. The director is Walter Salles and the script is by Jose Rivera. Further details on Facebook

'The Motorcycle Diaries is a beautifully wrought account of the dawning of the social conscience of one of the 20th century's most romanticized revolutionaries. In gradual increments, Brazilian director Walter Salles' best film to date reveals how an eight-month trip through South America in 1952 opened the eyes of a 23-year-old upper-middle-class Argentinian medical student named Ernesto Guevara, who a few years later emerged as the charismatic Che.' (Variety)

motorcycles exhibition screen great escape, goma
GOMA (May Cross)
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Why? Great classics and iconic movies
When: until 26 April
Where: QAGOMA, South Brisbane
Cost: FREE
Your Comment
Great stuff, love the bikes, can't understand why you'd have a car!
by eddie (score: 1|90) 10 days ago
Very informative and interesting article May. It does reinforce my preference for four wheels under me.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|1425) 10 days ago
Enjoyed your article May, a very engaging story of motorcycles on film.
by Janice Heath (score: 2|398) 10 days ago
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