Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. Japan, 1965. Organizing Committee for the Games of the XVIII Olympiad, Toho Company. Screenplay by Kon Ichikawa, Yoshio Shirasaka, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Natto Wada. Cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa, Kenji Nakamura, Shigeichi Nagano, Shigeo Murata, Tadashi Tanaka. Produced by Suketaru Taguchi. Music by Toshiro Mayuzumi. Production Design by Yusaku Kamekura. Film Editing by Tatsuji Nakashizu.
The 1964 games are captured with vibrant life by master filmmaker Kon Ichikawa, who covers an entire range of spectacles in three seemingly short hours. Bookending the film with the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics, the film features superb moments of triumph and skill in a wide variety of sports including pole vaulting, swimming, shot put, gymnastics, weight lifting, wrestling, boxing and a highly impressive marathon. What’s even more fascinating is Ichikawa’s deft understanding of the various rhythms of filmmaking that are required to capture these various sports in the most effective possible ways for the screen: lots of quiet intensity for the runners, bright flashy editing for pole vaulters and fluid camera movements for gymnastics are just some examples, and there are plenty of magnificent vistas that Ichikawa finds a myriad of creative ways to shoot. It’s a riveting, beautiful film, true to the pan-national, pro-peace message of the events, a tribute to the human form and the power of its perseverance.