There are galas on galas, and each one is more lavish and exciting than the last one, which rather competes with the glut of incredible movies that appear every few minutes. I’m new to international festivals, and have really only covered the New York Film Festival, until recently my backyard and Blackstar in Philadelphia. Everything else has been online thanks to the security protocols adopted to keep critics alive under COVID. I hope they continue, but really Be here is a kind of incessant experience outside the body.
I’m talking to a very talented singer named Lisa Ramey about the concert performed in a public place with hits by Jesus Christ Superstar, which she missed by virtue of going to the wrong afterparty when it dawned on me that very little happening this week will easily be contextualized later. It’s a whirlwind. You have to choose between a disco-themed party and watch all four hours of Edward Yang’s “A Brighter Summer Day”, and well … it was shown at 35mm, there was no way I would miss it. There’s Michael Caine being honored with a lifetime achievement. The seven seconds in which I get to express my love for the movie “Play Dirty” and hear him say with the most famous charismatic voice of the last 50 years, “Thank you, sir”, will last the rest of my life. I’m introduced to David Ondříček and I get about three seconds before I tell him “Your father Miroslav recorded” If …. “, in a few days my favorite movie ever.” He nods and says “Mine is ‘O Lucky Man!'” He named his production company after that movie, also by the great Lindsay Anderson, and he’s rehearsing their latest production here, “Zátopek, ”As he instructed. It’s the festival’s opening night film, and even though I’m jet lagged, I can nonetheless tell you that it’s impressive.
I’ve written before that biopics are a devastation to film culture, in terms of the most horrific clichés and most miserable structures, usually little more than requests from stars for awards with their greatest and least interesting performance. “Zátopek” is thankfully devoid of them all, though it’s hard to deny that there’s a decent dose of lift, even though it seems to want to do without it. One can only be so untraditional when talking about a national hero. And there is no doubt that that was what Emil Zátopek was. He was a hard and bald gremlin of a man, he broke Olympic records, stood up for his teammates at the height of the repressive state apparatus speech and became a symbol of cooperation in the world of sports. The film tells its story in selective flashbacks as he in the “present” mentors Australian runner Ron Clarke. It is a testament to the strength of the casual style that it never becomes a problem that Clarke’s story has nothing to do with Zátopeks, except that we see the loneliness that the Czech locomotive threatens thanks to his stinging personality and his does not like to be told how government officials should behave. He went on a leash to be too free for his own good, and if he pushed for it, he would lose everything, even if he kept putting the formerly excellent Czech Olympic team in the spotlight.
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