Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking Inventory as of September 8

The Black Pirate starring Douglas Fairbanks; silent with intertitles; live accompaniment by Dennis James; (1926)
Absolute Beginners starring Patsy Kensit, Eddie O'Connell & David Bowie; (1986)
The Hippie Temptation; documentary; hosted by Harry Reasoner; (1967)
Tyson directed by James Toback; documentary; (2008) - Official Website
Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg; documentary; (2009) - Official Website
Moon starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey (voice only); (2009) - Official Website
Up starring Ed Asner & Christopher Plummer (voices only); animated 2-D Version; (2009) - Official Website
Inglourious Basterds starring Brad Pitt; directed by Quentin Tarantino; (2009) - Official Website

Two Tars; starring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy; silent with intertitles; live accompaniment by Dennis James; 21 minutes; (1928)
Partly Cloudy; animated; 6 minutes; (2009)


I saw Two Tars and The Black Pirate at the California Theater in San Jose. They had a summer series that was affiliated with the Stanford Theater.

Partly Cloudy preceded Up.

All of these films are well known or general release films.

I enjoyed Inglourious Basterds and have to say that Christoph Waltz's performance lived up to advance billing.

Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg played at this year's SF Jewish Film Festival. It's been playing at the Landmark Theaters for the past few weeks. The documentary focuses on Gertrude Berg, the driving force behind The Goldbergs a radio and pioneering television series. The shows is largely unknown to modern audiences. I never heard of the show or its star before this film. Her story was fascinating though - she basically invented the sitcom format, she stood up to McCarthyites when co-star Philip Loeb was accused of being a Communist and eventually dropped Loeb to save her show. Along the way, she ingrained the matronly, immigrant Jewish characterization that still exists. Loeb is worthy of a documentary in his own right. Zero Mostel's suicide in The Front was based on the actual death of Philip Loeb.

Absolute Beginners was part of a Castro Theater's musical series. I can't remember the name of the series. The 1986 film starred Patsy Kensit, Eddie O'Connell and David Bowie. Directed by Julien Temple, the stylish musical was set in 1950's London and dealt with racism and gentrification. Nice soundtrack featuring Bowie, Sade and Ray Davies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

She's Like Joe Pesci...

Although I watch a lot of films, I don't really watch that much television. Earlier this year, I went for about 4 months without a TV because my old one died and I just procrastinated in getting a new one. I've never owned a DVD player. When I want to watch a DVD, I slip it into one of my computers' CD/DVD drive. My new television has a connection port so I can run the computer monitor display through the TV. I'll have to try that sometime.

One reason I don't watch much television is because even though I have cable (now digital cable) and over 100 channels, I often can't find anything worth watching. During the summer, I'll watch Giants games. The rest of the year, I watch the History Channel or the Discovery Channel. I like watching shows about guns, Nazis, Bear Grylls and how thing are made with 70's soundtrack overlay. Sometimes, I'll watch VH1 if they are airing 100 Greatest (fill in the blank) from the 80's. How many times does Road House air every week? How long before they launch the Law and Order Channel?

There are shows that I don't watch but wish I would have when they debuted because now they're too far along for me to pick up the plotlines - Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy are three.

There are a few shows I watch.

I didn't blog about it but I was/am a huge fan of The Shield with Michael Chiklis. The cast was amazing so I won't single anyone out. The multi-season story arc about the flawed Vic Mackey was the best television I've seen. I wish it was still on the air.

The plots on Family Guy have been criticized as a series of non-sequiturs but they remind me of the old Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker films. They keep throwing gags against the wall and see what sticks. Also, because they are cartoon characters, they can get away with a lot more than live actors could. One of the recurring characters is a pedophile (maybe technically, he is a ephebophile) and they make jokes about minorities, gays and the handicapped among many other taboo subjects.

Actually, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia gets away with almost as much offensive humor as Family Guy. It's like Seinfeld 5 times as raunchy and moved to the South Side of Philly.

Rescue Me is uneven and I went for about two years without watching it. It became a cartoonish soap opera. The plot seemed to revolve around heaping tragedy on Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin (FDNY fireman) to the point of ridiculousness. Before the timeframe in the show, Gavin's best friend & cousin died on 9/11 (Gavin has recurring conversations with his ghost), Gavin's son died as a result of a drunk driving hit & run, his cop brother was shot in the line of duty (but not before he began an affair with Tommy's estranged wife), his father died of natural causes while sitting next to him at a baseball game, his mother died of natural causes (Gavin & his cop brother had a knock-down fight at the wake) and in last week's season finale, his uncle shoots him twice because he blames him for his wife's death (she was driving drunk). The humor of the show is what keeps me watching though.

Tommy's travails are wearing thin but every once in awhile, they come up with a sub-plot that shines. The past few episodes, Tommy has been seeing a cougar (Maura Tierney). Kelly (Tierney) had her claws into Tommy's cousin's son but Tommy stepped in and they've had a budding relationship since they both discovered the other lost a young child. I should mention that Tommy is having sexual relations with his estranged wife (Janet) and his cousin's widow (Sheila). The two of them decide they need to scare Kelly off because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't. That sets up one of the best scenes I've watched on television in a long time. Janet & Sheila show up at Kelly's place (actually it's temporary because her actual home burned down). After some initial maneuvering and posturing, Sheila lays it out that Tommy will only cause Kelly heartbreak and pain. Paraphrasing -

Kelly: Tommy held me.
(Look of shock on Janet and Sheila's faces)
Janet: Did you say 'held' or 'head?'
Kelly: Held.
Sheila: You mean like 'held you down?'
Kelly: No, held like embraced and comforted.
Sheila: Tommy doesn't do holding.
Kelly: Well, he held me. Now I'll have to ask you to leave. You can show yourselves out.
(Kelly gets up to go to the kitchen)
Sheila: I'm sorry about your loss.
Kelly: What?
Sheila: Your baby that died. Janet lost a son and I had a miscarriage. I guess it's something we have in common.

Later, Janet & Sheila have a fight on the street outside Kelly's brownstone. Kelly witnesses this and later (in a conversation with Tommy) gets off this all-time zinger - "The little one [Sheila], she's like Joe Pesci with tits."

Lately, I've been watching The Closer on Saturday mornings. It's time slot coincides with the time I typically do my laundry. It's not bad; Kyra Sedgewick's faux Southern accent is grating but that probably on purpose.

I try to get to the gym on Saturday afternoons. The stationary bikes have a TV built in and I frequently watch Iron Chef because it coincides with my typical workout time. Jeffrey Steingarten can be downright bitchy with his comments. He's like Joan Crawford without tits...

If memory serves me corectly...about 10 years ago, I used to watch the original Iron Chef in Japanese with subtitles. I much preferred that show with its wacky subtitles and reverential tones such as "The Delacroix of French Cuisne" or "The Mistress of Salt." I also liked the regal theme music (originally from the movie Back Draft).

Sometimes, I'll watch an episode of The Simpsons or House if I'm flipping channels. I liked Bill Shatner on Boston Legal too.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Telluride Film Festival and the Red Riding Novels/Films

In the summer of 1990, I had a job in downtown LA. I was living in Arcadia, not far from Santa Anita Racetrack. I read the LA Times that summer and saw this article on novelist James Ellroy. The article mentioned that Ellroy's mother was killed in El Monte, not far from Arcadia and on by birthday (not the same year) nonetheless. I guess in some subconscious and morbid way, it piqued my interest in his works. I'm glad I read that article nearly 20 years ago.

I think the article was promotional piece for Ellroy's upcoming novel LA Confidential. I ended up buying a paperback of the novel before that in the LA Quartet - The Big Nowhere. I stayed up until 3 AM (on a work night) reading the book. After that, I read The Black Dahlia and the Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy. Subsequently, I read every book and short story Ellroy published. I didn't quite enjoy his Underworld Trilogy (or the first 2/3 of it). By the way, the final installment, Blood's a Rover is set to be published September 22.

in 2007, I read a book jacket blurb stating David Peace's latest work as a terrific by Ellroy. Later I would read that Peace said the same of Ellroy's works but at the time, I took Ellroy's endorsement as reason enough to read Tokyo Year Zero. I will admit that it was an interesting crime thriller set in September 1945 Tokyo. By the way, Occupied City, the second book in the Tokyo Trilogy was released last month.

Peace is better known for his Red Riding Quartet. What is it with mystery writers and trilogies/quartets? I have yet to read the Red Riding Quartet about some Yorkshire murders in the 1970's/80's. It's unclear if the novels are historical fiction about the actual Yorkshire Ripper or a fictional character inspired by the Yorkshire Ripper.

Anyway, I was perusing the Telluride Film Festival Program Guide for this weekend's line-up. There is a write-up for three films called Red Riding: 1974, Red Riding: 1980 and Red Riding: 1983. Apparently, the Red Riding Quartet of books has been made into a trio of films (all released this year). That's kind of unusual to release all three at once. Perhaps the films weren't released at once though. The films were British TV movies so they may have been broadcast on successive weeks. I'm not sure if the films will get a formal release in the US with all three being released at once.

The Red Riding films are directed by three different directors and have different casts but were adapted for the screen by the same writer and production team. There was a 1977 installment of the Red Riding novels that got folded into the 1974 and/or 1980 films.

I noted the introduction to the Red Riding films in the program guide - “Noir” these days runs the risk of becoming a cozy cult that justifies (or not) the unearthing of every B picture from a certain period in Hollywood. I couldn't agree more.

This statement made me skeptical though - anyone caught in the creeping infection of these films will recognize a tragic achievement that surpasses that of The Godfather. High praise indeed; even blasphemous in certain quarters. I'm certain the trilogy will be making the rounds in the Bay Area at some point so I hope to render my own judgment.

Gary Meyer, the owner of the Balboa, is the co-director of the Telluride Film Festival. I'd like to go out to Telluride some Labor Day weekend but festival passes are so expensive and the film schedule is not fully announced until the morning the festival begins.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Top Bill: The Films of William Klein

The Model Couple directed by William KleinThe PFA is kicking off a William Klein retrospective on September 11. Titled Top Bill: The Films of William Klein, the program consists of 11 Klein films, most of them documentaries. The (film-side) cover of the current Art & Film Notes features a striking still photo from Klein's The Model Couple.

As I previously mentioned, I was entertained by Klein's The French at the YBCA in August. At that time, Joel Shepard of the YBCA mentioned that the PFA would show the Klein films in September and October. He specifically mentioned Muhammad Ali, the Greatest as Klein best known film.

I was blissfully ignorant of William Klein. Before seeing The French, I had never heard of Klein. After seeing The French, I was looking forward to the PFA series.

Then it dawned on me that September is Noir Appreciation Month and I would be forced to choose between Klein and noir. The PFA must have been aware of the conundrum because they paired Klein with a Tea & Larceny film five times (out of seven screenings) in September. It looks like I'll be able to see Muhammad Ali, the Greatest and Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther. I'll probably and regrettably pass on The Little Richard Story on September 24. The Roxie is showing The Sniper that evening and I've long wanted to see that Edward Dmytryk film which was filmed in San Francisco.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Silhouette City

After last year's DocFest, I listed some films I regretted missing.

One of the films, Kassim The Dream screened at the Roxie in August. I deliberately saw fewer films in August than a typical month because I was fatigued and I knew September would be busy if I saw half the films I want to see.

Another of the films that I missed at the 2008 DocFest was Silhouette City. The filmmakers found my blog and offered me a screener but I decided not to request one as I barely have enough time as it is.

Peter M. Hargrove, the producer of the film, sent me an email announcing that the film is opening at the Roxie on September 11 and a link to the electronic press kit.

Silhouette City is an immersive journey through the recent history of American apocalypticism. Using archival video, movement propaganda and original investigative material, the film tracks the movement of apocalyptic Christian nationalism and its most extreme adherents from the margins to the mainstream, the military and beyond. The film examines the striking ideological and rhetorical similarities between The Covenant, The Sword & The Arm Of The Lord (CSA) - a group that provided the model for militia group activity in the 1990s - and the mainstream Christian Right of today. It reveals how the apocalyptic intensity and rhetoric of final warfare are symptoms of those impulses opposed to cultural openness - and as the formal and conceptual methods of propagandizing their struggle are laid bare - the CSA provides a case study in grassroots response to right-wing apocalyptic impulses. This sense of urgent desire for radical closure will find its expression - whether it be grassroots organizing, hate speech or direct violence.

Unfortunately, the film appears to be booked for the Little Roxie. As I've complained before, the Little Roxie is perhaps the worst permanent theater venue I've been to. I've seen films in facilities that were not intended for film screening such as classrooms or rec rooms but the Little Roxie is used 7 days a week. Did I mention that the noise from the adjacent bar is audible as well as the sounds of the film/DVD projector in the booth? It gets uncomfortably warm when they sell out all the seats which is about 40 "permanent" but unbolted theater seats. When they sell out, they bring in additonal folding metal chairs for placement at the end of each aisle.

Anyway, September 11 is the first day of PFA vs. Castro Noir Duel. That's just another way of saying, I don't know if I will go see Silhouette City unless it gets a long run at the Roxie.

Visit the Silhouette City Official Website.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mostly Noir but German Terrorists, Chilean Fascists, Japanese Porn, Italian Witches and Alfred Hitchcock Have Their Moments Too

As I mentioned, the Castro Theater is presenting “Rialto's Best of British Noir.” This series of five films is co-presented by the Film Noir Foundation. The Film Noir Foundation was founded by Eddie Muller and presents the wildly successful Noir City Film Festival each January. Speaking of which, the dates and venue for Noir City 8 have been announced. The festival will run January 22 to 31, 2010 at the Castro.

I posted the synopses of Brighton Rock and It Always Rains on Sunday from the PFA program for Tea and Larceny.

The other three films in the program are:

The Third Man (1949) - Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime — and thus begins this legendary tale of love, deception, and murder. Thanks to brilliant performances by Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, and Orson Welles; Anton Karas’s evocative zither score; Graham Greene’s razor-sharp dialogue; and Robert Krasker’s Oscar-winning photography, The Third Man, directed by the inimitable Carol Reed, only grows in stature as the years pass.

Peeping Tom (1960) - A frank exploration of voyeurism and violence, Michael Powell’s extraordinary film is the story of a psychopathic cameraman — his childhood traumas, sexual crises, and murderous revenge as an adult. Reviled by critics upon its initial release for its deeply unsettling subject matter, the film has since been hailed as a masterpiece. With Carl Boehm, Moira Shearer, Anna Massey and Maxine Audley.

The Fallen Idol (1948) - The first of three masterpieces to result from the legendary meeting of director Carol Reed and writer Graham Greene, who together would also create The Third Man and Our Man in Havana. Elegantly balancing suspense and farce, this tale of the fraught relationship between a boy and the beloved butler he suspects of murder is a delightfully macabre thriller of the first order and a visually and verbally dazzling knockout. With Ralph Richardson, Bobby Henrey, Michèle Morgan and Sonia Dresdel.


The Roxie's Best of Columbia Noir program has been rescheduled for September 17 to 30. The films are the same as I previously reported. The Roxie is currently seling passes for the program priced at $85. The double feature price will be $11.


The Red Vic is screening a film that looks interesting on September 17. It will be the San Francisco premiere of Stingray Sam (Official Website). A dangerous mission reunites Stingray Sam with his long lost accomplice, The Quasar Kid. These two space convicts must earn their freedom by rescuing a young girl who is being held captive by the genetically designed figurehead of a very wealthy planet. Science fiction, musical and miniseries collide in this anticipated work. Director Cory McAbee will be in attendance. Stingray Sam screened at this year's Sundance. The film was well reviewed on Variety whose opinions I have found to be generally consistent with mine - The overall effect is hilariously digressive, campy yet deadpan. And awfully catchy: McAbee's songs range from a "Rawhide"-like theme tune to swinging '60s acid rock, cowpunk and an acoustic "Pretty Little Lullaby." There's even room on the soundtrack for brief traditional Indian and Chinese instrumentation. The freewheeling pic accommodates everything from physical humor (notably an incredible "secret handshake" running gag) and delightfully staged wiseass musical numbers (opener "Welcome to Mars" wins goodwill enough for multiple features) to the genuinely sweet interactions between senior and junior McAbees.


At the Castro, from September 23 to 27, is The Metropolitan Hallucinations
of Marin Scorsese, a program of ten Scorsese classics including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino and Raging Bull. The two films I would like to see on the Castro screen are After Hours on September 23 and Mean Streets on September 25.


For 31 days starting on September 1, the Stanford Theater is screening Hitchcock films including my favorite, Strangers on a Train. At the end of the film, there is a scene involving a "runaway" merry-go-round. There is an old man that is a carnival worker in charge of the carousel. He has to crawl under the floorplates to get to the center of the merry-go-round to stop it. All the while, Farley Granger and Robert Walker are fighting each other and the centripetal forces. The slow movement and labored but relentless expression on his face are both funny and suspenseful. Hitchcock claims the scene was filmed without trick photography and the most dangerous he ever filmed.

They are screening two early Hitchcock films I would like to see. Both were filmed in England before Hitchcock emigrated to Hollywood. The 39 Steps (1935) and Secret Agent (1936) are a double feature from September 8 to 10. The latter stars John Gielgud and Peter Lorre.


The Baader Meinhof Complex opens at Landmark Theaters (maybe others) on September 4. Highly reviewed, the film dramatizes the real-life actions of the Red Army Faction, a terrorist group operating in West Germany in the 1970's. Visit the official website.


I don't know if it's been released yet but if not, it will be released on September 4. I am referring to Still Walking, a Japanese film about "modest joys and gentle sorrows that accompany the realization that life must inevitably move on." Visit the official website.


Tony Manero opens on September 11 at the Sundance Kabuki. Technically, it's playing on the San Francisco Film Society Screen at the Kabuki.

In Santiago de Chile, 1978, Pinochet’s dictatorship has Chilean citizens coping with a nightly curfew, constant military patrols and the omnipresent threat of violence. In the midst of it, a middle-aged man named Raúl (Alfredo Castro) is obsessed with the idea of impersonating Tony Manero, John Travolta’s character from Saturday Night Fever. On the outskirts of the city, he leads a small group of devoted dancers who have set their sights on an upcoming “Tony look-alike” television competition. Raúl’s immoderate desire to win, coupled with an obsessive need to recreate the glass dance floor from the movie, leads him to commit a series of crimes and thefts and to act increasingly autocratic and cruel with his fellow hoofers. “Shot on 16mm, Tony Manero has a purposefully murky look and a frantic feel. The ultra-Dardenne camera follows Raúl as he darts through Santiago’s empty alleys and vacant lots, only pausing when he raptly watches Saturday Night Fever or attempts to imitate Tony's stomp-and-point rhythmic flailing. Feasting on this bizarre fascist posturing, director Pablo Larraín suggests that, with his sordid charisma, Raúl is a miniature Pinochet—reproducing the brutality of the state in his willingness to steal, exploit, betray and kill in the service of a fantasy.” —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice


On September 10, 12 & 13, the YBCA is screening Bigger Than Life (1956). Starring James Mason & directed by Nicholas Ray, the film is ostensibly about a man that takes experimental cortisone pills to control his "inflamed arteries." Subversively a critique of conformism in 1950's America, Bigger Than Life has gained an appreciative audience since its original release.

The YBCA is screening Dario Argento's Three Mothers Trilogy on October 1, 3 & 4.

Suspiria (1977) - Considered one of the great horror films, Suspiria tells the tale of Suzy, a young American ballet student who travels to Italy to attend a prestigious dance academy, only to arrive at an institution terrorized by gruesome murders. After putting together clues, Suzy uncovers a coven of witches who use the reanimated corpse of her friend in an attempt to murder her...And don’t forget the soundtrack

Inferno (1980) - Arguably Argento’s masterpiece, in Inferno a young woman stumbles upon a mysterious diary that reveals the secrets of "The Three Mothers" and unleashes a nightmare world of demonic evil. As the unstoppable horror spreads from Rome to New York City, this unholy trinity must be stopped before the world is submerged in the blood of the innocent. Features a pulse-pounding original score by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

The Mother of Tears (2007) - The bizarre finale to the trilogy. In the heart of modern Rome, an urn is found and brought to a young archeologist, Sarah Mandy. But what Sarah doesn’t know is that the urn belongs to the world’s most powerful witch, the Mother of Tears. She unwittingly unleashes a demonic power intent on destroying the city and everything in its path. Starring Asia Argento and Udo Kier.

Starting on October 8, the YBCA screens eight pinku eiga films by Koji Wakamatsu.

More than any other Japanese films, those made by Koji Wakamatsu in the '60s and '70s are deeply rooted in the political and social upheavals of the era. One of the leaders of 'pink cinema,' Wakamatsu has always been obsessed with the history of student protest movements. 'Pink cinema' or pinku eiga—Japanese sexploitation—were independent film productions that from the mid '60s to early '70s experimented with a new form of filmmaking that blended sex and violence.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beyond ESPN: An Offbeat Look at the Sports Film

I was able to catch four documentaries at the YBCA's Beyond ESPN: An Offbeat Look at the Sports Film - "a varied assortment of films that don’t play by the rules when it comes to defining athleticism or the cinema of sports."

The documentaries were a mixed bag but overall I enjoyed myself.

Rare Films from The Baseball Hall of Fame
A Sunday in Hell; Danish with subtitles; (1976)
The French directed by William Klein; (1982)
Visions of Eight (1973)


Rare Films from The Baseball Hall of Fame was my favorite of the four. Not theatrically released, the "film" is a compilation of footage from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The digitally projected excerpts were compiled by David Filipi, the Curator of Film/Video at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. Closer to a presentation, Filipi was in attendance and stopped the projection periodically to introduce the next set of clips. Filipi has programmed this series annually for the past six years at the Wexner Center. The program screened at the YBCA was the first one he screened at the Wexner.

The footage was entertaining and fascinating. Among the highlights were footage of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Casey Stengel testifying before Congress with respect to signing underage prospects to long term contracts. Filipi likened Stengel to Grandpa Abe Simpson of the television series The Simpsons. Stengel's testimony meandered to cover Sunday Blue Laws and a company holiday for the Standard Oil Company. Mantle seemed a little dim witted while Williams towed the company line by supporting the signing of underage players.

There was also footage of a secret Jackie Robinson tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Diamond Demon, a short film (produced by MGM) about Jackie Price. Price was a career minor league baseball player who went on to become a "Clown Prince of Baseball." Diamond Demon showcased some of his talents such as hitting a baseball while hanging upside down, pitching two balls at once and shagging flyballs while driving a jeep.


The French was a fragmented documentary about the 1981 French Open tennis tournament. At times, I didn't know who won the match that was being shown. Klein abruptly cut away without showing the final score. What the film lacked in terms of a narrative, it made up for with hugely entertaining subjects. The cast of characters looked to the work of fiction but I guess it is standard for pro tennis players to be a motley bunch. Virginia Ruzici seemed lacking in self-confidence with respect to beating Chris Evert-Lloyd. Indeed, she lost to her in the Quarters. Evert-Lloyd & Ruzici were the two female players that received the most screen time. Hana Mandlikova eventully captured the title but she received very little screen time. Andrea Jaeger made the Semis but the only footage of her was for an impromptu birthday celebration on the grounds of Roland Garros. Martina Navratilova made the Quarters but there was only one brief scene of her in the women's locker room. Sylvia Hanika made the Finals before being defeated by Mandlikova and I don't recall any scenes with her before the final match.

The French focused on the men's draw. Perhaps because such volatile characters as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Năstase were in mix. They delivered what you would expect. The film captured one of McEnroe's court outbursts and the crowds responding catcalls. McEnroe seemed simultaneously oblivious to the crowd and while still playing to the crowd during this temper tantrum (for receiving a warming for hitting balls into the net after a game).

The two characters that were most surprising were Björn Borg and Ivan Lendl (the two Finalists). Lendl came off as uptight and stangely shy. I guess "the robot" has feelings. Borg, who I think of as blandly congenial but with a laser focus and supremely ambitious, had the most telling moments in the film.

At the beginnng of the film, Borg participates in a photo shoot and exhibition match with children on the day before the French Open. Borg seems to be having a horrible time. I can guess that those kinds of events become irksome after awhile; especially on the day before you begin your quest for a sixth French Open title.

The final scene of the film is the best. After Borg defeated Lendl (it was Borg's final Grand Slam title), he tossed his racquet into the air. A ballboy retrieved the racquet from the ground. Borg goes on to celebrate without a second glance for his racquet. Later in the dressing room after Borg has showered and is preparing to leave, the ballboy approaches Borg and pleads to be allowed to keep the racquet as a memento. We have already seen that Borg takes a dozen identical looking racquets to the court when he plays and he doesn't seem to have any special affinity for that particular racquet. Rather than allow the boy to the keep the racquet (or offer him some other item in exchange for the racquet) or decline but explain why the racquet is important to him, Borg chickens out and tells the boy that if it is alright with his coach, then it is alright with him. As you can guess, the coach says no and the boys is left in near sobbing as the film ends.


Visions of Eight was directed by eight of the most celebrated directors of the early 1970's - Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude LeLouch, Juri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger & Mai Zetterling. Each director was given a carte blanche to film some aspect of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Surprisingly, only John Schlesinger makes passing reference to the "Munich Massacre" of the Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists (coincidentally, there were eight terrorists).

Each director's segment was self-contained. I arrived a few minutes late so I missed most of the first segment, "The Beginning" by Yuri Ozerov. That seemed to focus on the opening ceremonies which have always bored me but that's not the reason I was late. Of the other seven segments, the results were mixed. I am a budding fan of Ichikawa since seeing A Full-Up Train and Fires on the Plain. Ichikawa's segment was titled "The Fastest" and it was about the men's 100 meter dash. Shot in slow motion, Ichikawa introduced the segment by saying he shot 20,000 feet of film. That was part of the problem - heat after hear, runner after runner, we see each athlete's sprint slowed to the point where their skin & muscle ripple and their faces contort. Meant to represent the human condition, the segment seems derivative now. Even 1973, this slow-motion action would have been passé. Perhaps the human condition Ichikawa wanted to show us was monotony. I grew restless during the segment and went to the restroom. Similarly, Arthur Penn's treatment of the pole vaulters ("The Highest") used the same slow-motion photography to drain the excitement and energy from the event.

The segment I most enjoyed was "The Strongest" by Mai Zetterling. "The Strongest" covered the heavyweight or superheavyweight men's weightlifting event. I think they did the the clean and press. The best footage involved a weightlifter who was clearly unsure of his ability to perform the lift. He circles the barbell like a prizefighter, he yells at himself to get his adrenaline up and he approaches and retreats from the barbell numerous times. Eventually, he fails to make the lift.

A few other segments were noteworthy. I believe it was "The Decathalon" by Milos Forman that mixed in some German oompah music, men dancing in lederhosen and women dressed like the St. Pauli Girl with footage of the competition; very amusing. Another segment ("The Loser" by Claude Lelouch?) mixed in footage of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" (was that Carl Orff conducting?) with shots of the reaction of the also rans. "The Women" by Michael Pfleghar was overtly sexist if judged by modern standards which made it all the more enjoyable.

Henry Mancini's original score added quite a bit for the final segment. The last segment on the closing ceremonies didn't have a credited director.


I would very much like to have seen Agua, a 2006 Argentinian narrative directed by Verónica Chen but I chose to go to the PFA that night.

Disgraced as a doper, thirty-four-year-old Goyo returns to the world of competitive swimming to mentor Chino. Their partnership yields a strange result in this film by Veronica Chen, a young force in Argentine cinema who brings a sensual regard of male physicality. The film’s competitive sequences move from skin-caressing observation to gorgeous or violent abstraction, before the suspense and extreme interiority of a swimmer’s experience give way to a recognition of surroundings.