Film #17: White Vertigo (1956) Apr 4, 2018 21:23:58 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Apr 4, 2018 21:23:58 GMT -5
White Vertigo (1956)
Directed by: Giorgio Ferroni
Directed by: Giorgio Ferroni
Film #17/53; part of the Criterion Collection's "100 Years of Olympic Film" box-set
Using the wonders of Kodak's color-correction tool Eastman color, the cinematography of Aldo Scavarda, and the compositions of Angelo Francesco, who scored Othello for the great Orson Welles, director Giorgio Ferroni was able to make White Vertigo, a rousing and visually awe-inspiring documentary account of the 1956 Winter Olympics. The games, which took place in the small Italian city of Cortina D'Ampezzo, are captured with the incredible clarity you'd expect from color filmstock of the time, and its aesthetics make it a fascinating evocation of the early on-set experimental tendencies in film that would lead to a cross-cultural renaissance in multiple different countries beginning at the turn of the decade.
The latter reason is one of the many I've decided to devote a considerable amount of my time to perusing the wonders 100 years has done to Olympic documentaries. The Olympics are one thing, but the amount of history and film techniques that can be unearthed by even the weaker documentaries of this set are invaluable to the history of the medium. White Vertigo director Giorgio Ferroni employs immensely talented men in Scavarda and Francesco in order to make the documentary an effective mood-piece as much as it is a snapshot of history. To think that noteworthy cities like Amsterdam and Helsinki would be the subject of multiple subpar documentaries and then for the sole Olympic film made in 1956 in a city many probably can't even accurately pronounce is a feat in itself. Maybe that's what Ferroni was going for all along.
The opening sequence of the documentary resembles a storybook, with radiant and majestic mood-music and images casting a folkloric ambiance over the city of Cortina D'Ampezzo. Narration notes that the conclusion of autumn and the transition to winter marks a bittersweet time for the sleepy Italian city but nonetheless poses a host of opportunities for the Olympics and the tried and true spirit of the competition to wash over a host of supremely talented men and women. One of those individuals, most notably, was Toni Sailer, who won three gold medals at the 1956 games at the age of 20. Sailer later became a singer and an actor, yet is still well-regarded for his accomplishments as a skier.
Throughout the film, Ferroni creates an intimate yet adrenaline-fueled atmosphere thanks to his exceptional camera angles, which find exhilarating ways to liven up the skiing and bobsledding events. More than just the games, however, Ferroni also has an interest in capturing what leads up to the competition, letting his camera linger and look on at athletes scurrying to polish their skates and get themselves in order in time to compete. He shows why and how bobsleds are made the way they are, and takes the time to note how every corner and stretch of the downward slope for the respective sport is different in terms of structure and purpose. Furthermore, him and Scavarda create an elegant harmony during the speedskating events, which are marked by slow-motion videography, as well as the manner in which they highlight figure-skating, where form and posture takes over the overall technique.
Another interesting detail is Francesco's decision to use a polyrhythmic jazz score during the ice hockey competition, inspiring a relaxed sequence rather than the violent, hyperactive ones we've seen in past documentaries. No matter what event is thrown his way, Ferroni finds a way to make it unique and functional. He chooses to capture some horrific tumbles in the third-act ski competition, but the manner in which his team edits the ski-jumping footage to make it seem as if the competitors are flying is beautiful, to say the least, and a breakthrough in narrative structure for the period. White Vertigo combines a desire to experiment with the advent of color filmstock in order to make a decidedly different kind of Olympic documentary than what we've seen in the past.
Directed by: Giorgio Ferroni.