It is said to be one of the greatest sports films. This is good, it is precisely about the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
When you start to watch Kon Ichikawa’s documentary on the Tokyo Games in 1964, you inevitably have in mind Leni Riefenstahl’s much more famous film about those in Berlin in 1936. Although both had considerable resources to produce beautiful images, Tokyo Olympics is poles apart from the celebration of nations and athletes as superhuman heroes that is the Nazi film The gods of the stadium.
On the contrary, it is barely if we know who won or lost, the film sticking more closely to the deeply human experience lived not only by the athletes, but also by the people around them. Here, we show the spectacular rise of a runner. There, we stop to observe the thousand and one tics of a shot putter. Elsewhere, we witness the drama experienced by marathon runners in agony or by the judoka prisoner of a catch from which he will not get out. These images of moving bodies and expressive faces sometimes come with the voice of the TV or music descriptor, but more often with the noise of the crowd or, more simply, just the sound of the crampons on the ashen track and the breath of athletes.
It also allows us to discover that around fifty feature films have been shot over the years, to offer a certain look at the Olympic Games, both summer and winter, and that they have sometimes been made by others. Renowned filmmakers, such as Milos Forman (1972 Munich Games), Claude Lelouch (1968 Grenoble and Munich Games) and Carlos Saura (1992 Barcelona Games). For the Montreal Games, it was Jean-Claude Labrecque who took up this challenge, with Games of the XXI Olympiad whose humanity is not unlike that of Kon Ichikawa.
This year, for the Tokyo 2020 Games, this role will fall to the Japanese, Naomi Kawase, director, among others, of award-winning films Suzaku, Mogari forest and To the light.