Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
The idea sounded like a great one at the time: Eight important directors would be given their own budgets and camera crews and dispatched to Munich to record their personal visions of the 1972 Olympics. What nobody could have anticipated, perhaps, is how similar many of those visions would be. Too often during “Visions of Eight” the Olympic events are reduced to slow-motion ballets that finally just repeat themselves.
There is, I suppose, some interest in Kon Ichikawa’s slow-motion replay of the 100-meter dash; the world’s fastest men are slowed down to grotesque life-sized robots with pumping cheeks and contorted faces, and we get a feeling for the event’s special agony. But the sequence is held too long; and so is Arthur Penn’s segment on pole vaulting. We get jump after jump in slow motion, but all of that footage doesn’t tell us as much about the vaulters as one single shot, near the end, where Penn shows us a competitor meticulously removing an invisible piece of lint from his hand grip.
There are other small touches that make the film worth seeing. In Claude Lelouch’s segment on the losers, for example, there’s an astonishing display of bad sportsmanship from a defeated boxer who refuses to leave the ring. For three or four minutes caught in a single take, he expresses his contempt for the decision and his outrage at the crowd (which generously boos him).
There’s another kind of losing, too. In Mai Zetterling’s segment, we see a massive weightlifter as he nervously circles the weights, and we can almost taste his apprehension. We’ve seen other competitors lift this bar (which takes five men to carry from the stage), and we know how heavy it is. So does he. He circles the stage, breathing deeply, trying to psych himself into the lift. He approaches the bar, grabs it, backs away. Circles some more. Just looking at him, we sense he can’t lift it. He approaches the bar again, heaves, gets it a foot off the ground, then throws it back down again with disgust and walks off the stage. In a moment like that, we begin to understand something of the difficulties of the weightlifter.