Olympia (1938)

"Weak"

Olympia (1938) Review


From: Matt Langdon [mailto:MattL@landmarktheatres.com] Sent: Friday, August 02, 2002 1:21 PMTo: null@filmcritic.comSubject: Tokyo Olympiad

Soap box time:

I'm reviewing the Tokyo Olympiad DVD now and agree Criterion has done a good job. But I have to take issue with your views on Riefenstahl's Olympia. You write that it is, "simply not even technically interesting as filmmaking."

Whoa!

Opinions and facts are two different things. The real fact is that you don't find it technically interesting. But you inflate your opinion to a fact. There is no question, to anyone who has seen her film, that it is frequently technically spectacular. The word technically being the operative word there. The footage she got and the editing she did from a technical stand point is damn good even though it may not be to your liking. But unless you were a cinematographer and felt that her shots were out of focus, amateurish, or badly lit then you can't really say it is technically uninteresting.

It's okay to say you can't stand it. After all it is a Fascist piece of work. You could say the film falters because it uses slow motion too often. Or her fascination with the human body becomes tiresome after a while. Or gee I hate black and white cinematography - but all of these are opinions predicated upon facts.

I guess my question to you is why don't you find it technically interesting?

Nothing personal, just thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Matt

[


]From: Christopher Null [mailto:null@filmcritic.com] Sent: Friday, August 02, 2002 1:48 PMTo: Matt LangdonSubject: RE: Tokyo Olympiad

Matt,

First off, anything stated in a film review should be filtered through the lens of subjectivity. When I say "Keanu Reeves can't act," obviously I mean that "I feel Keanu Reeves can't act." I'm not about to start every sentence of every review with "I think" or "I feel" or "In my humble opinion... please feel free to disagree with me!" Yes, opinions and facts are two different things. If you are looking for facts, you really shouldn't read movie reviews.

Second, you made me laugh by contradicting your own statement only two sentences earlier by saying, "There is no question, to anyone who has seen her film, that it is frequently technically spectacular." Now your statement is fact and mine is not? How does that work!? It's obviously a question of taste and a matter of opinion as to the technical spectacularness of Olympia. I personally feel it is of the same caliber of cinema as (alternately) the Golf Network and Clash of the Titans. No one has every explained to me why exactly Olympia is such a landmark achievement. It is overrated pap. Perhaps I should put that in my review.

Third, I don't think I can explain precisely why it is uninteresting to watch but I'll try. I'm not a big fan of performance art, and all the nonsensical flexing and posing at the beginning of Part 1, while it has curious lighting, is hardly worth watching either for entertainment or for technical value. Riefenstahl's endless succession of track and field events captured in Part 2 are not particularly interesting or pioneering either. It's Wide World of Sports in black and white. Where is the mastery in training a camera on a 100-meter dash? Is there any particularly inventive camerawork here? I don't think so, and it certainly doesn't have the nuance of Tokyo Olympiad. In other words: Not technically interesting. That said, the Hitler connection doesn't really concern me either. You'd have to be a cad to hate Riefenstahl just because she had the misfortune of being German in 1938.

But in the end, I'd like to hear someone explain why they think Olympia is so great. (And if you've actually sat through this nightmare more than once because you really have a good time watching it, we're waiting for your call. Leni, you don't count.) For example: If I say "That painting is ugly" and you say "No, it's beautiful," I would think the person stepping up with "beautful" would need to back his statement up more than the guy going with "ugly."

And I'm going with "ugly."

Yours,

CN

[


]Editor's Note: Part 1 of Leni Riefenstahl's supposedly "landmark" 1936 Berlin Olympics documentary is called Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker. Part 2 is called Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit. Sometimes the combined film (incessantly referred to as "a movie about beauty" by drooling film snobs) is referred to as The Olympiad. Why the movie is split into two separate releases in unknown, except that it's almost four hours long when put together, and presumably not even the Germans could sit through the whole thing.

P.S. This exchange was so much fun that Matt was invited to become part of the filmcritic.com staff.



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