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Tokyo Olympiad [VHS]

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Product details

  • Actors: Abebe Bikila, Jack Douglas, Hirohito
  • Directors: Kon Ichikawa
  • Writers: Kon Ichikawa, Natto Wada, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Yoshio Shirasaka
  • Producers: Asao Kumada, Jun Kiyofuji, Senkichi Taniguchi, Suketaru Taguchi
  • Format: Import
  • Language: Japanese
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Tartan
  • VHS Release Date: 1 Jan. 1995
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004COYJ
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,982 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

A documentary on the 1964 Olympic Games, held in Tokyo, by acclaimed film director Kon Ichikawa (Fires on the Plain, An Actor's Revenge). It used 1031 cameras, 232 lenses, and 164 cameramen.


Kon Ichikawa's documentary record of the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo looks like a deliberate bid to make a film as different as possible from Leni Riefenstahl's notorious Nazified Olympiad Triumph of the Will--shot at the 1936 Berlin Games. Where Riefenstahl glorifies muscular young Aryan bodies in heroic struggle and victory, Ichikawa goes for a more unassuming, human touch. Working with 164 cameramen, he undercuts the official pomp and pageantry with moments of humour and informality. Thousands of doves are released to mark the opening ceremony, and spectators duck and cover against a shower of droppings; meanwhile an official trots anxiously after one dove that doesn't feel like taking off. Ichikawa sidelines the competitive spectacle to dwell on small idiosyncrasies and revealing displays of emotion--a Russian shot-putter goes through an elaborate pre-throw ritual of twitches and tweaks; an American swimmer weeps when she's awarded her gold medal; a Japanese weightlifter emits a rousing Samurai yell as he hoists his barbell; a racing cyclist, grounded in a collision, clutches his leg in agony and frustration; and the camera impishly zooms in on the ungainly wobbling bottoms of competitors in a walking race. There are moments of sublime beauty, too: rowers scull over a mist-shrouded morning river; the Ethiopian marathon winner, slim and sinewy, calmly outpaces the field with a stoic dignity worthy of Buster Keaton. Finally, after all the fine speeches about aspiration and international brotherhood, a lone sweeper totes his broom across the vast deserted stadium. --Philip Kemp

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Doggus on 3 Jun. 2004
Format: VHS Tape
As a great admirer of the Ethiopian Marathon Runner Abebe Bikila, I bought this because of its footage of the great man winning his second Olympic Gold. However I was gripped by the whole film. The images captured are simply beautiful, amazing for its time. Hundreds of cameras were used to gain images not just of the events, but all the other activity surrounding the Games, opening ceremony, through to the finale with a solitary individual with a broom sweeping up. Stands as a wonderful record of the 1964 Games, and stands in stark contrast to the modern extravaganza the Games have become. Stunning.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "wunderpantzuk" on 10 Sept. 2003
Format: VHS Tape
A magnificent document which captures the true splendour of what many regard as the last true Olympic Games before boycotts and overt commercialism took over. Superb images captured by Ichikawa and his crew.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Jones on 25 April 2014
Format: VHS Tape
These films are now permanently available here: subtitledfilms [a|t] gmx [d|o|t] com

Please email for further details and buying options etc.
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By v a robbins on 24 Mar. 2014
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This was a present for my husband and he thought it was one of the best dvds he has ever watched.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
The human side of sport without the sap... 17 Oct. 2002
By Christopher B. Hoehne - Published on
Format: DVD
A lemon placed as a totem on a starting block. The torn feet of drained marathoner. The fleshy cheek of a shooter oozing over the butt of his rifle. The turkey-like jowls of older spectators. The squint against blinding lights of an athlete from Chad as he steps off a plane and into the alienation of city life for perhaps the first time. Rain on a sopping wet track. Trains clattering over bridges. The splat of a hammer in wet turf. The almost obsessive-compulsive preparation of a shot-putter has he prepares for his throw. The nonchalant strength and focus of a winning judo expert. A yachtsman, while leaning far out over the water to balance his craft, capricously dipping his hand into the water as it passes inches from his face. The giddy excitement of a little girl spectator clapping and cheering for the sake of it. A member of the American delegation breaking the solemn ranks of the opening ceremonies to chase away a pigeon.
All these things, and countless other human details, are elements that make up director Kon Ichikawa's loving portrait of human aspiration: "Tokyo Olympiad".
At least as important as what it does, is what "Tokyo Olympiad" does not do. Unlike television coverage of the last few Olympic games, it does not plead for our sympathy by drowning us in "human interest" stories of hardship, cancer and family tragedy. Unlike in newspaper and television coverage of the games, the politics and ambition of individual nations' teams is far in the background. Unlike Leni Reifenstahl's "Olympia", it does not hold the athletes up as demigods, asking us to fawn over the glorious perfection of their shining bodies and heroic achievement. And, most importantly, it does it seek present a complete account of the final results of the events. Doing so in a 2 1/2 hour film would be impossible anyway.
More important to Ichikawa is the experience of the event itself- from both the spectators', and participants'- both winners and losers- point of view. Each event that that falls under the directors gaze, is presented in its own idiosyncratic way- with much attention given to the composition and visual texture of events as well as the human elements of each sport.
In one of my favorite segments- the women's 80m hurdles- Ichikawa begins by showing us an almost abstract close-up of the race we are about to see. In this way, the director seems to be saying that it's not the official result, but the intense feeling of being in such a race, which is important. Cutting back to before the race, the camera follows the athletes as they pace the field and go through their often quirky preparations. The Japanese runner, psyching herself up, jerks her head from side to side, does a childlike summersault, jerks a few more times, then does a cartwheel. In the next shot, with no explanation, we see that she places a lemon on the staring block, which Ichikawa allows us to consider for a second. With the runners lined up, the camera goes into extreme slow motion. We witness the sinew, focus and tension at the starting block. The din of the crowd is faded out, and all that remains is the sound of ropes rhythmically clanging against the stadium's flagpoles in the wind. Then even that fades out, the gun fires, and, as the runners powerfully push out of the starting blocks, silence. We are shown a front view of the brief race in extreme slow motion. The mood is pierced once by the bang of a single runner hitting her hurdle. Then, as the final hurdle is cleared, the roar of the crowd swells and the lead hurdlers break the tape.
Compared to this, who ended up winning the race is mere trivia.
Each event is treated in own careful manner- revealing not the sporting drama of scores, distances and times, but the feeling of human aspiration embodied in motto "citius, altius, fortius". The dramatic marathon, the last event to be shown, is a masterwork, into which is impossible to not be drawn in.
Ichikawa views the Olympics idealistically. Through stunning images, and the color-commentary-like narration (in subtitled Japanese) we come to experience the Olympics as an event about human beings (instead of nationalistic athletic juggernauts) coming together to compete in an atmosphere of peace. After seeing athletes and spectators from all over the world cheerlly mingle, cheer, and celebrate, one sees the Olympics as a reminder what world peace can look like. It's just the sort of thing that the planet needs from time to time. It gives us something to work towards.
The DVD is mastered beautifully, and the colors are subtle and rich as a documentary film from 1964 can be. The sound is excellent. The enclosed liner notes by sports-writer legend George Plimpton are vivid and enlightening. (Can you tell I like this DVD?) The commentary by Peter Crowie provides the fascinating back story of the film through stories of the athletes of the Olympics themselves- though I would recommend watching the film without it the first few times. He also makes comparisons between today's Olympics (Sydney) and these games- relatively (though not entirely) untainted by the politics of performance enhancing drugs (though it is quite likely that they were used extensively) and the excessive commercialism of the modern sporting world. The finely sculpted, corporate sponsored, bodyguard protected, superstars of today seem, somehow, less human than these athletes- allowed to walk freely around the field before their heat, who were not ensconced in some distant, private training camp away from the lesser mortals from lesser countries, and who were allowed to experience the Olympics in much the same way that Ichikawa wishes to portray them- as a big celebration of what it feels like to have something in common with new friends from all over the planet.
In the included 1992 interview in Tokyo Stadium- where the track events had taken place 28 years earlier, Kon Ichikawa was asked how he would film today's Olympic games, if commissioned to do so. "Pretty much the same way", was his reply. I would love for this to happen.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Greatest of All Olympic Films 14 Jun. 2002
By Kockenlocker - Published on
Format: DVD
I am ordering this post-haste.
I had the extreme thrill of seeing this film several times on the huge movie screen of a theatre Toho operated in Los Angeles when the film was released. About five years ago, I saw it in a smaller theater and it holds up wonderfully.
This is one of the most majestic films I've ever seen, but it is also dramatically compelling with sequences that will always be memorable. Perhaps most memorable is the real sense of caring and comradre among ALL the athletes AND spectators. Since these Olympics, the games have degenerated into political doo-dah of the worst sort. These games and this film have a dignity, humaneness and spirit that has all but been lost.
This is worth owning just for the Ethiopian's winning of his second Olympic marathon in a row. I seldom care about sporting contests, but the marathon literally had me grasping the theatre seat and verbally pulling for this incredible man--who along with Ali--is the greatest athlete I've ever witnessed.
The American version praised by another reviewer here, was IMO one of the worst desecrations of a masterpiece I can imagine. It was cut from the almost three-hour original version to about 90-minutes and accompanied by the most inane sports announcing ever. If you saw this atrocity, you haven't seen "Tokyo Olympiad."
If you are an Olympic fan or love breathtaking, intelligent and humane filmmaking, Ichikawa gives you the royal treatment in this film.
Thank you, Criterion, for re-issuing this. My only regret is that it isn't being re-released in big-screen theatres, where it can be properly appreciated.
See this. I think most of you will be cheering this monumental achievement.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
An excellent film, nothing short of astounding! 5 Oct. 2004
By Ted - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This review is for the Criterion Colleciton DVD edition of the film.

Tokyo Olympiad, known as Tokyo Orimpikku in the Japanese language, is the first Sports documentary released by the Criterion Collection. This film has gotten me interested in olympics and will pay more attention to it in the future.

The film covers some of the highlights of the 1964 summer olympic games in Tokyo Japan. It covers the construction of the stadium, opening and closing ceremonies, a scene of the cafeteria as well as the following sports. Men's 100 meter, men's high jump, men's and women's shot put, pole vaulting, hammer throw, men's 10,000 meter, women's 800 meter, men's 100 meter relay, men's long jump, women's 80 meter with hurdles, gymnastics, men's 100 meter freestyle swimming, women's 100 meter backstroke, men's freestyle relay. women's 100 meter freestyle, weightlifting,. wrestling, boxing, fencing, judo, shooting, cycling race, women's volleyball, boading, men's 50 kilometer walk, pentathalon and the marathon.

Several other sports were played, but not included in the film for the sake of brevity. Still the film runs at 2 hours and 50 minutes which was cut down from 70 hours of material.

This DVD release is one of the best released by the Criterion Collection which I have seen. This certainly is Kon Ichikawa's crowning achievement.

Right from the lighting of the cauldron by a man born in Hiroshima the exact day of the infamous bombing to the closing ceremonies opening the way for the games in Mexico City four years later.

The DVD has some fine special features also. There is a 1992 interview with director Kon Ichikawa and commentary by film scholar and olympic fan Peter Cowie.

In addition there's dozens of pages of supplement material in the liner notes including a list of all the medalists in each event, and many other things.

This is a definite must buy for olympic fans, sports fans, documentary fans and just about anyone!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Art and Sports Film 4 Aug. 2005
By Michael Goldman - Published on
Format: DVD
This is an incredible movie in its entire 3 hour glory. I watched it 3 times the first week I had it, including the audio commentary.

It is NOT a simple documentary. It leaves out a lot of events, and does not tell you who won what in many cases, but it gives you more emotional insight into the Olympic Games and sports competition than any all-inclusive documetary can possibly do. This isn't just about the Olympics, but about all sports and all athletes.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Incredible! 19 Aug. 2004
By T. Arbisser - Published on
Format: DVD
This film was on a list for my Japanese Cinema course at Cornell second semester of my sophomore year. I had not seen it yet when the class began talking about it, but I immediately began to understand and identify with what was being said about the film. The clips that were viewed in class hit me, and I knew I had to buy the DVD.

I am a sports photographer, some day I hope to work for one of the big sports magazines; SI, ESPN the Magazine, The Sporting News, etc. I could identifiy with Ichikawa and his use of techniques for this film. He did an incredible job, with his use of over 200 (specific number?) cameras and thousands of hours of footage. The editing of the film and the dynamics of the outcome are unbeatable.

For me, I was on the edge of my seat almost the entire film. I kept having images of how I could use a similar technique to enhance my own photography. I shared this film with a friend who had no interest in either sports or really in film, and she found it to be an amazing film as well.

This film is not for the sports addict who just wants to see action and the outcome (who wins, who loses etc.) It is very detail oriented and shows a different side to competition. Ichikawa's views of the Olympics are simply AWESOME!

I am so glad that this film was introduced to me during my class, and I will watch some of the scenes of the DVD over and over again.
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