Tokyo Olympiad

"Extraordinary"

Tokyo Olympiad Review


Boy did I groan when I put Tokyo Olympiad in the DVD player. A three hour documentary about the 1964 Olympic Games? Ugh! I have never been able to stand Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia, about the 1936 Games in Berlin, which is interminably dull, less compelling than an episode of The Wide World of Sports, and simply not even technically interesting as filmmaking.

And while Olympia has its fans, none of them could dare claim that the movie approaches the mastery of Kon Ichikawa. Olympia starts as a series of weird performance art images then turns into a lifeless chronology of one Olympic event after another (intercut with shots of Hitler). But Ichikawa turns the Games into something full of life, drama, and subtext. He gives us the events, but we also catch the undertones of, say, the doping of the German team, the subtle corporate sponsorships, and slow-motion looks at the athletes' impossible muscles in motion.

The year of creation has a lot to do with this. 1964 still has some of that post-War exuberance and pre-Vietnam innocence. Globalism, rampant drug abuse, and overt consumerism were only just beginning to impact the games, and it's looking for these signs (like a pair of Adidas on one athlete -- this in an era before Nike existed) that makes the three hours zip by.

Shot in widescreen and with a variety of styles -- from swish pans to extreme close-ups -- it's a masterwork of cinematography. The long, single-take scene of a torch-bearer running across the screen, as Mount Fuji fills the background, stands as one of the most profoundly moving shots in cinematic history.

Ichikawa misses with some of his vignettes -- a long bit focusing on a runner from Chad is pedantic and affected -- but the movie is fascinating by and large. However, whether or not you've seen the movie before, you absolutely must skip the regular audio and turn on commentator Peter Cowie's audio track. He's a British chap with a very mannered voice, but his insight is biting and often amusing, and he helps you find those details (like the Adidas) that you'd otherwise never see in a million years.

Tokyo Olympiad also comes with a booklet so thick I thought it was originally a second disc. Full of additional commentary, interviews, and the entire list of medalists from the Games, it's a great companion to a fabulous Criterion disc.

Aka Tokyo orimpikku.



Tokyo Olympiad

Facts and Figures

Run time: 93 mins

In Theaters: Friday 24th September 1965

Distributed by: Toho Company Ltd.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 11

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Kon Ichikawa

Producer: Suketaru Taguchi

Starring: Abebe Bikila as Himself, as English-Language Narrator

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Advertisement
Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.