- Bodies in Motion 12/1/1999 12:00:00 AM by liehtzu
Kon Ichikawa's "Tokyo Olympiad," a record of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, is not only arguably one of the best sports documentaries ever made, it is also among the best documentaries ever made, period. It is everything one would expect from a man who is known as one of the premiere stylists of the cinema and more. It is poetry, it is art, and it is almost ruthlessly compelling.
Whereas most sports documentaries are relatively cut and dry in that they focus mainly on the winners, Ichikawa has almost no regard for winning or losing at all. For him, it is about the event, the preparation and the movement embodied in Olympic competition - and the film follows both the winners and the losers. The film is incredibly textural. Sight, sound, and movement - even the most imperceptible - all weave together to form a remarkable tapestry that is as much about the director's own concerns as it is about the Games themselves. It is for this reason that the film initially had a rather stormy reception from those that had commissioned Ichikawa to make the film (and given him an army of cameramen to do so), though if my recollection is correct it went on to break box-office records in Japan. "Tokyo Olympiad" is not a film about the victory of winning, it is about the victory of attending - of being amongst the awesome crowds, the athletes, the bodies in motion. Being there is it's own victory, which is why Ichikawa focuses so much on the athletes from the newly formed African nation of Chad who, although they do not come close to winning any medals, are the first representatives of their country to appear in the Olympic Games. For Ichikawa their story is just as triumphant as that of the Ethiopian long-distance runner who unflinchingly leaves all his opponents in the dust and goes on to win his event by a mile. "Tokyo Olympiad" is not just about the realm of athletic or Olympic experience, it is about the human experience and about creating cinema out of it. At nearly 3 hours in length it is neither a minute too short or too long, and I personally feel privileged to have seen it.
- Thank you Criterion 6/26/2003 12:00:00 AM by smitchell-1
Seeing as how this dvd is almost 3 hours long I assumed that I could fast forward through some of it. I was wrong. As much as I tried, every new scene kept me glued to the screen. It's the Olympics like you've never seen them, shot and edited with the eye of a real artist. Once again Criterion brings us a lost masterpiece.
- T?ky? orinpikku: Bland, lifeless and simply not a documentary 1/22/2019 12:00:00 AM by Platypuschow
Toho have a long rich history of cinematic features, but this is the first time I've ever seen a documentary by them. I'm not sure if this is the only one but here they've demonstrated they have no clue how to make one.
To clarify I'm not saying Tokyo Olympiad is bad, I'm saying that it's very hard to refer to this as a documentary. You see this is essentially a compacted copy of the event itself, I don't see the documentary value despite a sprinkling of light commentary and history.
I'm not a sport lover, in fact I generally dislike it and every overpaid hack involved so much of this is very lost on me. Oddly according to my analytics Sport is my 3rd highest genre and I still don't understand how that's even possible.
Over 2hrs of footage from the 1964 Olympics, sure it's charming and I get the appeal but I still don't consider this a documentary and the novelty of people getting paid a fortune to run, fling things and get rewarded with chunks of metal is beyond my comprehension.
Great archive footage
Good history of the Olympics
Simply not a documentary
Oddly boring considering the subject matter
- less like Olympia and a little closer, though not totally, to being like the Olympic answer to Woodstock 8/17/2006 12:00:00 AM by Quinoa1984
While I've yet to see all of what many consider to be THE document of 20th century Olympics in Riefensthal's Olympia (it is, of course, a very long movie, and we only saw bits in a class), this document of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by Kon Ichikawa is quite the spectacle on its own. Ichikawa understands something that five years later Michael Wadleigh, director of Woodstock, would understand about filming an event (though Woodstock will always be the better, more incredibly watchable film for me). And it is, simply put, to make it an EVENT- in bold letters- for people who may not even really usually watch the Olympics. The way he uses his many, many, many cameras an exhaustively large crew is staggering, and just in the first half hour or so, when the countries all line up and the audience fills in as the games kick off, it's done in a very dynamic style. He alternates interestingly between big wide shots of the crowds (like Woodstock, seeming larger than it really is with everyone packed in thousands of masses), the stadium itself, and then to close-ups of individuals and bodies moving. It's this side of the film, the technical one, that is most worthwhile to see in the film.
If it's less than perfect, it's because, frankly, it almost does become 'too much' to see so many games that go on in the near three-hour running time. And the narration voice that pops up now and again sounds way too much like a narrator from old newsreels, trying to add emphasis where it's not really needed. It's too immense an event with too many goals vied for victory to add on extra words. But there are highlights though, such as the 100 meter dash, done in a slow-motion that might echo some of Ichikawa's other narrative films. And the Joe Frazier boxing match, while brief, is memorable. Sometimes Tokyo Olympiad comes off almost like an avant-garde film as much as it does just straight-on documentary, and it's here that I got drawn in. Of all major events involving sports and other games and activities and trials and such, the Olympics brings together all cultures for the sake of competing for a country's honor and respect, and Ichikawa has a very good balance between showing that and adding a distinct style to the numerous events. In fact, Ichikawa has what might be the best avant-garde sports documentary ever made, at least in the past forty or so years.
- 8/10 3/4/2002 12:00:00 AM by zetes
It pales in comparison to Olympia, that gorgeous Olympic documentary made during the 1936 Olympics by the Nazis' head filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, but Kon Ichiwa's Tokyo Olympiad is quite a good film itself. It documents the 1964 Olympics, the first ever to be held in Asia. Like Riefenstahl, Kon Ichiwa attempts to construct a document of abstract beauty out of these amazing athletes, a testament to the human form. He succeeds at times, but it's too much just a document of the events at times and too little abstraction. And I can only watch so much running before I get bored! The film has its high points and low points. The best moments are during the opening and closing ceremonies, the bicycle race, volleyball, race walking, the marathon finale, and especially the gymnastics, which end the first half of the film. The gymnastics competition is the only sequence in the film that hits the same level as Olympia. It's also nice to see the events in color (there are a couple, notably the amazing hammer throw, in b&w). The black and white cinematography is beautiful in Olympia, but its even more wonderous to see the oranges of the sun and the Olympic flame and the colors of the flags and the athletes' multi-hued uniforms. And the widescreen cinematography is often gorgeous, although I don't necessarily think that a wider screen, just because it shows more action, is better than the old Academy ratio of 1.33:1. Riefenstahl used that aspect ratio masterfully, as Ichiwa does here. Perhaps the most disappointing part of the film is that we only get to see about thirty seconds of a boxing match with Joe Frazier, the only athlete whom I (and probably everyone else as well) recognized in the film (and then Ichiwa follows him most of the way to the locker room, until Frazier turns around and waves goodbye). There is, however, a high jumper from the U.S. near the beginning of the film named John Rambo. I don't think there's any relation between him and the psycho Vietnam soldier. Much of the second half is dull, and there are several events almost cruelly ignored. Well, maybe not ignored, but, for instance, there is perhaps half a minute of basketball. Perhaps it was an unpopular sport in Japan.