Friday, July 05, 2013

Olympia 52

FR 1952. D: Chris Marker. DP: Chris Marker, R. Cartier, J . Sabatier, J. Dumazedier - 16 mm. ED: Suzy Benguigui. C: Joffre Dumazedier (voce narrante), Paavo Nurmi, Emil Zátopek, Alain Mimoun (se stessi). P: Peuple et Culture. Digibeta. 104’. Duration of the screening 102'. B&w. Da: INSEP – Institut National du Sport de l’Expertise et de la Performance. Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), earphone commentary in Italian and English, 5 July 2013

Georges Guy: "The first part of the film is in Helsinki during the Olympics: the stadium, the city, the athletes' accommodation, etc. It is here, in particular, that the director experiments with his taste for an unexpected approach and his fondness for meaningful details. The second, longer, part of the film is a documentary about the most important sporting events. For someone who is not sporty it can be annoying, but the dwindling interest is often revived by the human aspect of the event, the sportsmen and women stop being ma­chines and become human beings. The commentary pauses briefly to bid farewell to an athlete who is leaving, to remind us that a career is ending; a real tribute to human effort replaces the impersonal report. Elsewhere there is a poetic atmo­sphere to celebrate the Zátopek's feats, but it is done to emphasise the ethical value of the great athlete's effort, to try and soften the legend which suggests that this man is a machine. Finally, the ath­letes are not always shown fully exerting themselves: we also see them in training, a closer look that achieves the humanity that the scenery of the great stadium, the crowd and the impeccably marked lanes at times tends to conceal. All of this presents, albeit timidly, the deep human character of the film by Chris Marker, who points the camera at the faces rather than at the anonymous crowd. Finally, the commentary previews the following films by Chris Marker, whose forehead at times appears in the shooting. Nothing is miss­ing, the humour and quotes (for example the young Barbara's attempt to suddenly intervene at the microphone "dripping with water, radiant in the rain" to preach, against any common sense, the brother­hood among populations), a certain poet­ry (the young black athlete who becomes ever more "the most beautiful girl in the world"), a deep union between images and words." Georges Guy, "Image et Son", n. 161­-162, April-May 1963

Chris Marker's first film is a sober mainstream documentary on the Helsinki Olympics. It has never been screened in Finland, but it is a delightful discovery for a Finn.

The official Helsinki Olympics feature films were directed by Hannu Leminen: Maailmat kohtaavat [A Meeting of the Worlds] and Kultaa and kunniaa [Gold and Glory] with over 40 cinematographers, top professionals of Finland and contributions from foreign masters, too, most importantly from Sepp Allgeier, the veteran of mountain films, Leni Riefenstahl movies, and Nazi Germany's militaristic Feldzug (war campaign) films. One of Allgeier's earliest films, Mit der Kamera im ewigen Eis [With a Camera on the Eternal Ice] (1913) was shown in the final show of Bologna's A Hundred Years Ago retrospective.

It might be tempting to imagine a case of "authoritarian" official Olympic films vs. a more "liberal" approach in Chris Marker's work, but in fact they have much in common. Of course the official films benefitted from a robust budget and 35 mm technology. Marker makes the necessity of his more modest budget and 16 mm technology a virtue; his film is more free and relaxed.

The most memorable images here are the flying steps of the veteran Paavo Nurmi, the intimate moments of Emil Zatopek and Dana Satopkova, and the joy of movement in Nina Romashkova's discus victory. Not so fundamentally different from the official films.

For a Finn the film is full of delights about Helsinki anno 1952 seen through the eyes of the flying Frenchman. It does not look strange, but a little different. A characteristic Chris Marker approach is not yet much in evidence.

Visual quality: digibeta from 16 mm.
Even rougher notes: - Olympic fanfare - Le peuple finlandais - A log raft by the coast - Helsinki preparing for the 1940 Olympics - La guerre - The preparations for the 1952 Olympics - Rollers on the stadium - Suitcases - Montages of feet - Faces - Traffic, with horse carts - A traffic cop - The Olympic symbol everywhere - Linnanmäki amusement park - with a warning with a figure of The Phantom - a clown - a helicopter landing on the roof of the Post Office building - statues: Aleksis Kivi, The Three Blacksmiths - a trained seal - an Olympic lunch break - the Armed Forces serves the food - a Helsinki montage: a ship, the Central Station, shops with Olympic symbols, Kalle sex magazine among others - circles in water ponds, it's raining, 19 July, the sky is gray, people are heading towards the Stadium, the weather forecast having been: not a drop - everybody is taking shelter - even the orchestra - the parade of the Olympic teams, starting with Greece - the doves are set free - the electric billboard announces Paavo Nurmi as the harbinger of the Olympic fire - the still flying steps of Paavo Nurmi (a beautiful sequence) * - the Barbara Rotbraut-Pleyer incident - a great choir - the ideals of Coubertin - a résumé of Olympic history, Sonia Henie, Berlin, drôle du jeu - "Drink Coca-Cola ice cold" [Coca-Cola was launched in Finland in 1952] - the sportspeople are stretching and training * - the joy and relaxation in movement - expressive angles - intimate moments with Emil Zatopek and Dana Satopkova * [we knew Zatopek with the nickname "Satupekka" = "The Wonder Guy] - Nina Romashkova, the joy of movement [1952 was the first Olympic year for the USSR, and Romashkova was their first Olympic gold medal winner] - Zatopek jogging in the wood - a sighting of a cat - cycling - yachting - rowing - gymnastics - equestranism (dressage, eventing, show jumping): dangerous stunts - diving: a playful diving montage (springboard diving, high diving) - swimming - the pain of a sportsman, the sympathetic look - decathlon: long jump, hammer throw, steeplechase, discus throw, high jump, javelin throw... - la nuit tombe - flashback to Berlin 1936: the Korean runners in Japan's team - the maintenance of the tracks: sweeping, dragging - relay - Zatopek wins even the marathon, his third gold medal in the olympics (he had never competed in a marathon before) - fatigué - standing ovation - the stadion is empty - the Olympic fire is extinguished - abandonnée, désert - la guerre froide - on a presque oublié la guerre mondiale - Coubertin: la fête de la jeunesse

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