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