Ichikawa's cameras follow the 1964 Summer Olympics from opening to closing ceremonies. Sometimes he focuses on spectators, as athletes pass in a blur; sometimes he isolates a competitor; ... See full summary »
Ichikawa's cameras follow the 1964 Summer Olympics from opening to closing ceremonies. Sometimes he focuses on spectators, as athletes pass in a blur; sometimes he isolates a competitor; other times, it's a closeup of muscles as a hammer is thrown or a barbell lifted; or, we watch a race from start to finish. We see come-from-behind wins in the women's 800 and the men's 10,000 meters. We follow an athlete from Chad from arrival to meals, training, competition, and loss. Throughout, the film celebrates the nobility of athletes pushing themselves to the limit, regardless of victory. Written by
It pales in comparison to Olympia, that gorgeous Olympic documentary made during the 1936 Olympics by the Nazis' head filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, but Kon Ichiwa's Tokyo Olympiad is quite a good film itself. It documents the 1964 Olympics, the first ever to be held in Asia. Like Riefenstahl, Kon Ichiwa attempts to construct a document of abstract beauty out of these amazing athletes, a testament to the human form. He succeeds at times, but it's too much just a document of the events at times and too little abstraction. And I can only watch so much running before I get bored! The film has its high points and low points. The best moments are during the opening and closing ceremonies, the bicycle race, volleyball, race walking, the marathon finale, and especially the gymnastics, which end the first half of the film. The gymnastics competition is the only sequence in the film that hits the same level as Olympia. It's also nice to see the events in color (there are a couple, notably the amazing hammer throw, in b&w). The black and white cinematography is beautiful in Olympia, but its even more wonderous to see the oranges of the sun and the Olympic flame and the colors of the flags and the athletes' multi-hued uniforms. And the widescreen cinematography is often gorgeous, although I don't necessarily think that a wider screen, just because it shows more action, is better than the old Academy ratio of 1.33:1. Riefenstahl used that aspect ratio masterfully, as Ichiwa does here. Perhaps the most disappointing part of the film is that we only get to see about thirty seconds of a boxing match with Joe Frazier, the only athlete whom I (and probably everyone else as well) recognized in the film (and then Ichiwa follows him most of the way to the locker room, until Frazier turns around and waves goodbye). There is, however, a high jumper from the U.S. near the beginning of the film named John Rambo. I don't think there's any relation between him and the psycho Vietnam soldier. Much of the second half is dull, and there are several events almost cruelly ignored. Well, maybe not ignored, but, for instance, there is perhaps half a minute of basketball. Perhaps it was an unpopular sport in Japan.
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