The fights between boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmelling in the 1930s were strangely emblematic. In some ways, each man embodied a certain idealisation of his own country (democratic America and Nazi Germany); on the other, Loius himself was a victim of America's own racial divide. Barak Goodman's documentary is slightly over-reverential, at times conferring on Louis (the man) the full weight of what he happened to signify to black America (when one might suggest he was simply a man who could box; whose cultural impact on his country was almost a chance consequence of his awesome sporting prowess). But it's still a fascinating story, and there are also strange parallels between the careers of the two men (New York City didn't want black fighters, but (to some extent) it didn't want European ones either). Schmelling, who still lives but who does not take part in this film, is a more ambiguous figure, a man who compromised with Nazism; but 'The Fight' never reduces him to the level of comic book villain, and as a boxer, he did have one great victory before finally falling to his brilliant foe. The fact that the fights themselves were filmed, and can thus be re-broadcast here, adds more to this gripping documentary.
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