Film #4: The Olympic Games in Paris 1924 (1924) Jan 18, 2018 0:20:10 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 18, 2018 0:20:10 GMT -5
The Olympic Games in Paris 1924 (1924)
Directed by: Jean de Rovera
Directed by: Jean de Rovera
Film #4/53; part of the Criterion Collection's "100 Years of Olympic Film" box-set
The Olympic Games in Paris 1924 concludes Jean de Rovera's 1924 Olympic trilogy with a 174 minute look into the 1924 Summer Olympics. de Rovera examined different filming techniques in his short films, The Olympic Games Held at Chamonix in 1924 as well as The Olympic Games as They Were Practiced in Ancient Greece, both of which profiled the Winter Olympics in the snowy French locale, before setting his sights on the much larger potential brought on by capturing the summer games. With an almost inconceivable scale as well as the continued use of slow motion videography, de Rovera's finale brings to life over to dozen events in an exhaustive highlights reel filled with memorable moments save for its fair-share of overlong sequences.
The Olympic Games in Paris 1924 is the first of at least the Criterion Collection's massive collection of Olympic films to show the use of multiple cameras to capture the events. Consider the way multiple cameras add perspective to the tricky leaps of the pole vaulters or the various angles of the cross country track, which is the primary setting for the first third of the documentary. Also serving as a compelling showcase for this new inclusion are football (soccer) and rugby, to which de Rovera devotes an extensive amount of time as he tries to highlight the action of the games by employing more angles than most contemporary broadcasts of such events. In addition, the 1924 Summer Olympics was one that saw the introduction of star-power from the gold medalists, who went on to have fruitful careers. Most notably, there's Johnny Weissmuller from the United States, who took home the aforementioned accolades from the 100 meter freestyle, the 400 meter freestyle, and became a four-time 200 meter freestyle relay winner. Paavo Nurmi, who previously competed in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics (an event that has turned up no film footage to date), also became the toast of Finland after winning several medals in cross country despite the sweltering heat that had runners passing out from exhaustion.
The documentary includes several intriguing moments due in part to the fact that it chooses to spend such a long period of time covering each event. Pole vaulting is captured from various different angles and proves an assumption I had brewing when watching the events unfold in the previous documentary on the Stockholm games from 1912: as a home viewing activity, it's a lot of fun to mentally bet whether or not the vaulter will collide with the crossbar as he attempts to contort his body over it. The swimming session puts a lot of focus on the diving techniques of the competitors, while cross country is marked not only by a brutal heatwave but by the runners stopping for a wine break, many of whom almost looking unfazed by the conditions.
One has to laud the slow motion effects once again, even as they now become somewhat predictable. When de Rovera's camera minimizes the frame-count of scenes, he brings about a dashing focus on the form of the competitors that emphasizes their unbelievable physiques. When used to highlight the events of team sports, the slow motion brings about a beautiful look at the process of scoring a goal, implementing man-coverage in a game of football or playmaking in a try of rugby. The climactic moments of the documentary really amount to the football game between Uruguay and Switzerland, which sees a blowout in favor of the latter, but nonetheless documents some incredible offensive prowess on part of a still-extremely physical bunch.
The Olympic Games in Paris 1924 is overlong, and sometimes too pokey for its own good. It spends a lot of time revolving around particular events, sometimes to a fault, as we grow restless watching the extensive coverage amount to interchangeable results. I sometimes wished scenes were cut to half of their length to give the film a runtime closer to two hours in order for the bigger moments to retain impact. The final hour, when most of the focus rests on football, rugby, fencing (which is brutally boring, save for the first event being comparable to the filmmaking techniques de Rovera used in his previous Ancient Greece short), and boxing, makes the conclusion of this otherwise fascinating capsule drag to match a snail's pace. It's all fun for a while, but it's about time we move to a new year, a new location, and a new director despite de Rovera's filmmaking skills undoubtedly shaping what was such a new genre that no playbook of any kind could've even been vaguely written at this point.
Directed by: Jean de Rovera.